New York Post’s Chimp Cartoon: Racist Or Politically Motivated PC Firestorm?

The latest political firestorm of the day in a country that increasingly craves, wants, desires, and thirsts for angry firestorms and controversy centers on a cartoon that ran in the New York Post. Is it racist, does it use a shocking story in the news as a take off point or does it use a story to make a point that wasn’t sufficiently thought through?

We post — you decide:

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To some, including the Post’s management, Sean Delonas’ cartoon takes a huge and sickening story in the news about a pet-gone-wild, 200 lb. chimp who virtually ripped a woman’s face off and was shot by police and uses it as a take off point. These folks believe the furor raging among some activists and Internet sites is a case of something being seized on and blown way out of proportion.

To others, such as the Rev. Al Sharpton, it’s blatantly racist — comparing the author of the stimulus bill…who happens to be President Barack Obama…to a chimpanzee…truly one of the most vile racial images that has been around for years.

There is one hitch.

Although we’ve been highly critical of President George Bush on this site, for years he was compared to a chimp. For instances, this very lively website The Smirking Chimp used to have graphics of a simian Bush.

And see tons of graphics on Google Images showing Bush directly portrayed as a chimp. Of course, Bush could never be mistaken for an African-American so the comparison has a different context.

THE VIEW FROM HERE: We proudly run the incredible cartoon art of Cagle Cartoons’ many cartoonists from all over the world on this site. And as someone who worked on newspapers and knew some cartoonists, most likely this is what happened:

1. The Post is on the East Coast where the chimp story, which occurred in Connecticut — a suburb of NYC — and is HUGE news, bigger than it is elsewhere in the country because it hits literally close to home. The Post isn’t exactly in the Connecticut market, but it is a regional story for them.

2. The cartoonist is notably UN-PC. He used the breaking story motif of a chimp gone wild and the news all over the airwaves of the police shooting it. However, if he didn’t picture a chimp he would have been lambasted by many for even suggesting in jest any kind of violence towards an author of the stimulus, given the crazies out there. Not all of the crazies are on the Internet (writing posts such as this one).

3. Some people are genuinely offended, believe it is a bona fide racist attack.

4. There are also some people whipping up the issue because they don’t like the political point of the cartoon and some of them probably know they’re whipping it up. Some are raging against it because it’s an anti-Obama administration cartoon or because of the cartoonist’s past cartoons.

5. Some of those defending it are defending it because they don’t like Obama and might even feel the cartoon was in bad taste given the violence and that it can be interpreted as racist.

But each political side now has a football to bounce around. Some are genuinely outraged; some are not. Stripped away from the issue of the merits of charges of racism, the topic makes for great “hot” talk radio of the left and right, great ringing blog posts on the left or right.

And it’s so much more easy to rage over this than foreclosures, or stock market roller-coastering. You get more followers, more viewers and more readers with this then yet another tedious story about America’s economy sliding inexorably down the tubes.

But the betting from yours-truly who worked in the media is: the notably UN-PC cartoonist saw a big hot, issue in the news and used the motif and ran with it without taking the care to think through what some would perceive he was implying — and ran with it right into a political buzzsaw.

P.S. Chimps have enough problems without being compared to ANY politicians — Republicans or Democrats.

BUT THAT’S JUST OUR VIEW. HERE’S A CROSS SECTION OF SOME OTHER REACTION:

Gawker points to some other cartoons:

The outcry over New York Post cartoonist Sean Delonas’ dead monkey cartoon today is growing louder. But he has such a rich history! We assembled ten of his all-time classics of hate:

Go to the link to see them and judge for yourself. Question: If you look at these, are they outrageous?

No More Mister Nice Blog:

My gut reaction to the cartoon…by Sean Delonas of the New York Post, isn’t the same as that of Al Sharpton, the Huffington Post, Gawker, and others — I’m not ready to say that Delonas is taking a racist swipe at Barack Obama…I still think Delonas believes the stimulus, not Obama, is the savage beast you shouldn’t snuggle with because cozying up to it will encourage a vicious attack. But the fact that he got from that story to this cartoon makes me unsure what to think.

The Black Snob:

This political cartoon by Delonas ran in the New York Post Wednesday drawn by a guy who apparently didn’t get the memo that any doodle of a great age, chimpanzee, gorilla or monkey within 100 yards of Barack Obama is bound to raise some serious eyebrows.

Sister Toldjah:

I hope like heck that the NY Post stands firm and doesn’t offer the slightest apology for this non-racist cartoon, because if it does, it will just mean that white people will once again have to take a back seat (no pun intended) to race hustlers like Sharpton whose forms of “discussion” on race equate to them talking, and you listening.

From The Left:

Apparently, the cartoon refers to Travis the chimp, who was shot to death by police in Stamford, CT, on Monday after it brutally mauled a friend of its owner.

The cartoon obviously links the chimp to President Obama, who signed his administration’s economic stimulus plan on Tuesday. The New York Post is owned by conservative media mogul, Rupert Murdock.

Think Progress:

Many NY Post staff members were also reportedly dismayed by the cartoon, and the paper’s phone lines were ringing non-stop.

UPDATE: CNN’s Roland Martin is genuinely upset and here’s his detailed take on it:

President Obama earned kudos from the media when he said he screwed up in nominating Tom Daschle as secretary of Health and Human Services despite his problem with paying taxes.

Too bad the leadership of the New York Post didn’t follow the lead of the president in admitting that an editorial cartoon they ran today by Sean Delonas was offensive, careless and racist.

If you haven’t seen the editorial in question, it shouldn’t take you long to figure out that the subtle message was clear: comparing President Obama to a chimpanzee.

He recounts the controversy and then gets to the main part of his commentary:

To the editors who approved the cartoon, as well as the cartoonist, the piece was clearly all fun and laughs. But anyone with half a brain, especially someone knowing the history of African-Americans being called monkeys and gorillas, would have said, “We need to rethink this.”

First, mixing the two stories is ridiculous. Yes, the chimpanzee incident and the passage of the stimulus bill have a lot of folks talking, but to put them in the same element just doesn’t make sense.

Second, the cartoonist didn’t hang a sign around the neck of the chimp, so he left it up to the reader to determine exactly who the cops were referring to.

We all know that the stimulus bill was the first priority of the new president, so when reading the caption, it was easy to infer that the cartoonist was implying the president of the United States.

You know, the black guy.

And that’s where the problem comes in.

What could be seen as silly humor if President George W. Bush were in the White House has to be seen through the lens of America’s racist past, as noted by the leaders of the New York Association of Black Journalists, who also are demanding an apology from the Post.

“How do you think the Jewish community would feel about the use of rats in any depiction of them? How do you think the Italian community would feel about being generalized with mobsters?” the organization said in a statement.

“Monkey slurs against Africans and African-Americans go back to the days of early colonialism, when Anglo Saxon, Spanish and Portuguese conquerors used these types of drawings and descriptions to dehumanize black people so that their mistreatment and enslavement would not be viewed as wrong or sinful. The practice also took on more sinister roles later in history including during the slave trade here in the U.S. and in Hitler’s Nazi Germany.”

Ignorant leaders of the New York Post and others may think everything is fair game, and certainly criticizing the president of the United States is just fine. Yet while everyone seems to be caught up in the delusion of a post-racial America, we cannot forget the reality of the racial America, where African-Americans were treated and portrayed as inferior and less than others.

And just as some members of the media brotherhood were taken to task for their obvious sexism during the Democratic primaries because of comments about then-Sen. Hillary Clinton, we had to be sensitive to the historical treatment of women.

Oh yes, the Post will have its defenders, accusing African-Americans and others of being hypersensitive. The Post has already shown its hand by trying to make this all about Sharpton, since they know he’s the black bogeyman to white America. But they should understand that my e-mail box and Facebook page are filled with comments from folks of different backgrounds stunned by the callousness of the Post.

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  • MaryL

    “Although we’ve been highly critical of President George Bush on this site, for years he was compared to a chimp. ” But, as you seem to realize in your next sentence, there's a huge difference in racial context.

    Add in a violent killing (do you have any idea how much security is being prepared for Obama's visit to Ottawa tomorrow) AND add in the dismay felt by Post staffers AND add in the fact that the facing page to this cartoon where there's a big picture of Obama and a headline disparaging the bill AND add in the fact that Obama is generally viewed as the father of the bill — well, it's a perfect storm, isn't it?
    We're left with these options:

    1) The Post and its cartoonist are naive and clueless to the extreme
    2) They're deliberately trolling for a response, well aware of the violent and racist stink to this cartoon — and they got it

  • StockBoySF

    It's one thing to compare an individual politician to an animal, but it's another thing to characterize a whole certain race of people as a certain type of animal.

    Having said that I don't know if this cartoon is racist or not, considering the pet-gone-wild story. I would not have thought this was racist, but then again maybe I'm insensitive or clueless or both.

    In this case I think one has to know the pet-gone-wild angle. If one doesn't have that perspective then one of two things will probably happen. Either that person a.) won't “get it” or b.) will think the cartoon is racist (with no other context).

  • DaGoat

    The monkey looks nothing like Obama. In a political cartoon about a politician generally you draw the object of the cartoon with recognizable features, so I doubt the artist was referring to Obama. I think the cartoon is in poor taste mainly because of the depiction of the poor dumb animal who met a sad end.

  • jeburke

    I saw this cartoon and thought instantly that the point was that the stimulus bill could have been written by a crazed chimp like the one shot after mauling a woman.

    I'm a New York Democrat. I worked in NY politics for years and became finely attuned to racial issues and sensitivities. Yet, I made no connection between the chimp and Obama. None. When I saw in MSNBC that a story was coming up about the cartoon setting off a controversy, I said, “Uh, oh, PETA is coming on to complain about being insensitive to shooting the chimp dead.

    Then, when Al Sharpton popped up, for the first time irt occurred to me that some might see a racist angle. Well, if anyone would see it — and promote it — it's Rev. Al. It's total baloney. You would have to explain to anyone under 40 why the chimp thing relates somehow to a black President. It's a victory for Sharpton and his never-ending race hustling that we're even talking about it. I'm going to stop.

    http://thepurplecenter.blogspot.com/

  • mlhradio

    “Sound and fury, signifying nothing.”

    My initial reaction to the cartoon — the point that I got was the stimulus bill was a mess of a bill written by a thousand chimpanzees, somewhat akin to the Infinite Monkey Theorem”, that states that if you put an infinite number of monkeys in front of typewriters, given enough time they will produce the entire works of Shakespeare.

    Anyone who sees racism in the cartoon is LOOKING for racism to begin with – the same sort of victicrat mentality that pervades segments of our society. I see Wild-Eyed Sharpton as nothing more than a media opportunist who is willing to trump up any false controversy just to get his name in the news. Sad, sad, sad.

  • river

    I think the cartoonist's inner Chimp threw him under the bus. . .

    But acutely i agree with what you surmised: On target!

    ” But each political side now has a football to bounce around. Some are genuinely outraged; some are not. Stripped away from the issue of the merits of charges of racism, the topic makes for great “hot” talk radio of the left and right, great ringing blog posts on the left or right.

    And it’s so much more easy to rage over this than foreclosures, or stock market roller-coastering. You get more followers, more viewers and more readers with this then yet another tedious story about America’s economy sliding inexorably down the tubes.”

  • daveinboca

    Roland Martin is a clown, pure and simple…. CNN's Bob Herbert. Your main point: And it’s so much more easy to rage over this than foreclosures, or stock market roller-coastering. You get more followers, more viewers and more readers with this then yet another tedious story about America’s economy sliding inexorably down the tubes. elides into the general hysteria propagated by the MSM in their attempt to boost Obama into permanent power. I lost a house and was otherwise pummelled terribly by the horrific Carter economy of '80-81 with double-digit inflation, interest rates at 16%, and unemployment close to 10%.

    But back then, the media were hysterical about the near-certainty that Ronald Reagan was about to start WWIII, and economic woes took a back seat because the Democrat-biased media wasn't as interested. I was close to Ike Pappas at the time, a card-carrying Democrat for CBS, who daily railed about Reagan's unemployment stats—-neglecting to mention that they were diminishing from the Carter incompetency. All the hype about the current economy is only par for the course. Typical Dem hysteria to prod people into new Dem bureaucratic entitlement empires in the USG. And yes, the economy is in bad shape, ut anyone who lived through several Repub & Dem recessions since the fifties as I have, doesn't think it as bad as some—or at least it. And the Dem's flouting economics to force banks to give loans to unqualified borrowers—led by Barney Frank's “husband” at Fannie Mae, among others—caused more chaos than any other single cause of the current mortgage crisis. Let's drag Barney & Chris Dodd and Pelosi & Reid, all of whom blocked Repub attempts at reform of the CRA by committee machinations, onto the carpet.

    In the meantime, Tawana Brawley lives and thrives in the sick mind of Al Sharpton.

  • hart_wms

    Uh, Joe, moms and judges agree: two wrongs don't make a right.

    I know that the Righties seem to think that they do, but the old saw of “if you tell mom about A, I'll tell mom about B” is just as pointless and useless in adulthood as it was when we were kids.

    The question of whether Bush was compared to a chimp is meaningless in this context, and only provides cover for one of the most blatant eruptions of bile and, yes, racism we've seen in a long time.

    I'm surprised that anyone buys this tired old rationalization, but, sadly, they buy it all the time. Just see Michelle Malkin's defense of swastika yesterday, which uses the SAME specious reasoning.

    Or, since you once misspelled a word, you have no basis to criticize anything that I ever write. (Assuming that you remain unconvinced.)

  • PWT

    Since Mr. Obama didn't write the stimulus bill, what is the fuss?

  • Ginabina999999

    The depiction was of a violent killing with not only no remorse shown by the shooters but also a “he deserved it” mentality. Vicious. Insidious. Deliberate.