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Posted by on Feb 18, 2009 in Economy, Media, Politics | 10 comments

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:


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.


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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