- The Washington Times - Wednesday, February 25, 2009

A third apology may not be enough. Chimpgate continues.

“As the chairman of the New York Post, I am ultimately responsible for what is printed in its pages. The buck stops with me,” Rupert Murdoch said Tuesday.

“We made a mistake. We ran a cartoon that offended many people. Today, I want to personally apologize to any reader who felt offended, and even insulted,” Mr. Murdoch said.

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“The only intent of that cartoon was to mock a badly written piece of legislation. It was not meant to be racist, but unfortunately, it was interpreted by many as such,” he added, promising that the paper would be “be more attuned to the sensitivities of our community.”

That community is not ready to forgive the newspaper, which ran the offending “dead chimp” editorial cartoon one week ago. It has since become a political catalyst.

Outcry from civil rights activists prompted Post editors to issue one tepid apology and a larger mea culpa in the immediate aftermath, followed by Mr. Murdoch’s gesture.

“We are currently planning for dozens of actions in dozens of cities across the country,” said Benjamin Jealous, president of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

The Rev. Al Sharpton, who already led two vigorous protest marches in front of the newspaper’s Manhattan headquarters, has switched into hardball mode. Along with consumer and advertising boycotts, Mr. Sharpton has asked the Federal Communications Commission to review a waiver extended to Mr. Murdoch that allowed him to own more than one TV station and newspaper in the same city.

“It seems that we cannot have a true level of democracy in terms of how the newspapers and airwaves are used in this city,” Mr. Sharpton said.

New York Gov. David A. Paterson, the National Association of Black Journalists, the YWCA and other organizations issued multiple public criticisms of the cartoon, which included a bloodied chimp, a smoking gun, two cops and the caption that read: “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”

The cartoon appeared to cast President Obama as the ape.

“Your publication sadly reminded me of the reality that even in 2009, when an African American man holds the highest post in the nation, racism is alive and well in the United States,” said a petition from the NAACP, which also warned that the cartoon could spark an assassination attempt on Mr. Obama.

The ongoing saga is a cautionary tale for other news organizations, meanwhile.

The Washington Post made a pre-emptive apology for a chimpanzee illustration that appeared in the paper to illustrate a humor column Sunday, noting “The image and text inadvertently may conjure racial stereotypes that The Post does not countenance. We regret the lapse.”

The complicated public discourse on race also continues.

“The [New York] Post cartoon was provocative, but not racist. And it certainly was not an ‘invitation’ to assassinate President Obama,” said the Rev. Jesse Peterson, a talk-radio host and founder of Bond Action, a Los Angeles-based advocacy group.

“These are manufactured allegations by racist left-wing Democrat operatives. Sharpton, the NAACP and their angry supporters want to intimidate and silence independent media outlets like the New York Post and the Fox News Channel,” he said.

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