A cartoon in the New York Post newspaper that some have interpreted as comparing U.S. President Barack Obama to a violent chimpanzee gunned down by police drew outrage Wednesday from civil rights leaders and elected officials, who said it echoed racist stereotypes of blacks as monkeys.
The cartoon in Wednesday's Post by Sean Delonas shows two police officers, one with a smoking gun, standing over the body of a bullet-riddled chimp. The caption reads: "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."
The cartoon refers to a chimpanzee named Travis who was killed Monday by police in Stamford, Conn., after it mauled a friend of its owner.
Obama signed his administration's economic stimulus plan on Tuesday.
Some critics called the cartoon racist and said it trivialized a tragedy in which a woman was disfigured and a chimpanzee killed. Others said the cartoon suggests that Obama should be assassinated.
Many urged a boycott of the Post and the companies that advertise in it.
"How could the Post let this cartoon pass as satire?" said Barbara Ciara, president of the National Association of Black Journalists. "To compare the nation's first African-American commander in chief to a dead chimpanzee is nothing short of racist drivel."
New York state senator Eric Adams called it a "throwback to the days" when black men were lynched.
Rev. Al Sharpton, a New York-based civil rights activist, called the cartoon "troubling at best given the historic racist attacks of African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys."
The cartoon set off a furious response against the Post. Its phones rang all day with angry callers. Protesters picketed the tabloid's Manhattan offices on Wednesday, demanding an apology and a boycott and chanting "shut the Post down."
Col Allan, editor in chief of the Post, defended the work.
"The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit, the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut," Allan said in a statement. "It broadly mocks Washington's efforts to revive the economy. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist."
The cartoon drew hundreds of comments on the internet, including at the liberal Huffington Post, where columnist Sam Stein wrote:
"At its most benign, the cartoon suggests that the stimulus bill was so bad, monkeys may as well have written it. Most provocatively, it compares the president to a rabid chimp."
White House press secretary Robert Gibbs declined comment.
"I have not seen the cartoon," he told reporters aboard Air Force One as Obama returned to Washington from Arizona, where he announced his plan to deal with the home-foreclosure crisis. "But I don't think it's altogether newsworthy reading the New York Post."
It is not the first time that Delonas, the long-time cartoonist for the Post's Page Six, has raised eyebrows with a heavy-handed caricature.
An earlier Delonas cartoon made fun of Paul McCartney's ex-wife Heather Mills for having only one leg, and another compared gay people seeking marriage licences to sheep lovers. In a cartoon last month, an enormous Jessica Simpson dumps boyfriend Tony Romo for Ronald McDonald.