NY Post cartoonist compares stimulus author to chimp

Given the history of racist comparisons involving monkeys, some see a nasty undertone in the political cartoon.

Published February 18, 2009 4:40PM (EST)

A political cartoon printed in Wednesday's edition of the New York Post is already stirring controversy. The image, which was drawn by Sean Delonas -- who has a history of work perceived as racist, homophobic and misogynistic -- can be viewed below. It depicts two police officers standing over the body of a chimp one of them has just shot; the other remarks, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."

The specific reference being made is to the story on the cover of the Post, a chimp in Connecticut who mauled one of his owner's friends before being shot dead by police. And the "joke," presumably, is the old 1,000 monkeys on 1,000 typewriters eventually writing Shakespeare bit. But given President Obama's prominent role in the stimulus debate, and the history of racist comparisons between monkeys and black people, it's hard not to see something else in the cartoon. Even if it was accidental, originally, it's still difficult to believe that Delonas could have spent the time needed to draw the image and that it could then go through what was presumably more than one layer of editors without someone noticing a potential problem and then making a deliberate choice to run it anyway.

The Rev. Al Sharpton has put out a statement about the cartoon, in which he says, "The cartoon in today's New York Post is troubling at best given the historic racist attacks of African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys. One has to question whether the cartoonist is making a less than casual reference to this."

Update: Post Editor-in-Chief Col Allan has responded to the controversy, giving this statement to Politico's Michael Calderone:

The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut. It broadly mocks Washington's efforts to revive the economy. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

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