- The Washington Times - Friday, February 20, 2009

It was almost Chimpgate. But not quite.

The New York Post apologized on Friday — sort of — for publishing an editorial cartoon earlier this week which infuriated critics convinced the image suggested President Obama was a bullet-riddled chimp.

“Wednesday’s Page Six cartoon — caricaturing Monday’s police shooting of a chimpanzee in Connecticut — has created considerable controversy. It was meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill. Period,” the paper said.

“But it has been taken as something else — as a depiction of President Obama, as a thinly veiled expression of racism. This most certainly was not its intent; to those who were offended by the image, we apologize.”

The paper monkeyed around with its mea culpa, however.

“However, there are some in the media and in public life who have had differences with The Post in the past, and they see the incident as an opportunity for payback,” the Post continued. “To them, no apology is due. Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon — even as the opportunists seek to make it something else.”

The newspaper initially stood by cartoonist Sean Delonas, framing the cartoon as a “clear parody of a current news event.”

Rev. Al Sharpton and a coterie of several hundred activists did not take it that way; the group picketed the Post’s Manhattan offices on Thursday, armed with placards emblazoned with such mottos as “Shut down the Post” and “Not Funny. Shameful.”

Mr. Sharpton, along with New York Gov. David Paterson, the National Assoc. of Black Journalists, the YWCA and other organizations issued sharp public criticisms of the cartoon.

The apology is not enough for Mr. Sharpton, who plans another rally on Saturday.

“All of us can only wish the New York Post had taken a more mature position when the issue was first raised rather than belatedly coming up with a conditional statement,” Mr. Sharpton said Friday morning, promising updates throughout the day.

The controversy has attracted a global press meanwhile, closely followed by news organizations in Britain, India, Australia, China and other nations.

“Editorial cartoons are meant to evoke and provoke. They should have some spice. They should have impact. They also should measure up ethically,” said Bob Steele, media ethicist for the Poynter Institute.

The offending cartoon failed, he said.

Mr. Steele criticized the cartoon for merging two unrelated news events, its execution and “stereotypical” overtones.

“The cartoonist and the Post’s editors have fought back from a defensive crouch. They should be much more reflective. They should reveal more about why they did what they did, what ethical values were guiding them, and how they made their decisions,” he said.

“But I’m seeing no evidence they had a justifiable ethical decision-making process or that they applied core ethical values to their actions.”

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