- The Washington Times - Friday, June 21, 2002

NEW YORK He foiled Sylvester the Cat. Now the cunning Mexican mouse known as Speedy Gonzales apparently has outwitted the forces of political correctness.

The Atlanta-based Cartoon Network is returning Speedy Gonzales to its programming later this month after an outcry from fans.

The Cartoon Network yanked Speedy from the air in the late 1990s. Some fans say owner Ted Turner ordered the move because he believed the cartoons, which included the likes of Speedy's lazy cousin, Slowpoke Rodriguez, perpetuated an offensive Mexican stereotype.

Cartoon Network spokeswoman Laurie Goldberg said in March that the Speedy cartoons simply weren't that popular compared to other selections in an archive of some 8,500 cartoons. That has changed, she said yesterday.

"We never had a demand for it before. Now there's this vocal group that wants it back. If it does well, it will stay, and if it doesn't, it won't. After all, we are a business."

In recent months, thousands of fans many of them Hispanic created a brouhaha by lobbying hard to get the fastest mouse in all of Mexico back on the network.

Radio personality Rush Limbaugh decried Speedy's demise as political correctness gone too far. The League of United Latin American Citizens, the nation's oldest Hispanic-American rights organization, called Speedy a "cultural icon" who displayed plenty of admirable pluck.

One die-hard fan, Matthew Hunter, started an online petition in April to get Speedy back on the air and gathered more than 2,500 signatures.

"It's been silly not to have Speedy on the air because people watch him in Latin America, and they love him," said Virginia Cueto, associate editor of HispanicOnline.com, an English-language Web site based in Florida. "It will be good to have him back."

Thousands of Hispanics and others have logged onto HispanicOnline's message board to voice their support for Speedy's return.

Said one fan: "Speedy is more of a positive symbol. He always brings down that loco Daffy Duck to the point that the latter finally started respecting Speedy. People like Speedy."

Speedy starred in more than 47 Looney Tunes shorts and won an Academy Award in 1955. The Cartoon Network, owned by AOL Time Warner Inc., has exclusive rights to show the cartoons in the United States.

It took control of the Warner Bros. collection of animated movies in 1999.

The Cartoon Network's Web site says Speedy cartoons will air throughout late June and July.

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