Wolff: Murdoch probably "livid" over Post chimp cartoon

A biographer of the News Corp. head, who owns the New York Post, thinks the controversial image was deliberately racist, and won't go over well at company headquarters.

Published February 19, 2009 8:00PM (EST)

Remember that New York Post cartoon from Wednesday, the one showing a dead chimp representing the author of the stimulus, the one that prompted debate about whether it included a racist undertone about President Obama? Well, now someone with real insight into the matter -- Vanity Fair writer Michael Wolff, who recently authored a biography of Post owner Rupert Murdoch -- has weighed in.

Writing for Newser, Wolff says he does think the cartoon was racist, and deliberately so, and he also drops one interesting tidbit: Murdoch himself is probably "livid" over the decision to run it. With a hat-tip to Ben Smith, an excerpt from Wolff's post:

As a student of the Post and of Murdoch and his people, let me suggest the likelihood that Allan and the Post are well off the post-modern reservation. That Allan’s personal and tabloid anger, never so carefully in check, has burst into the open in an incredible spasm of tone deafness and -- say it -- racism. For one thing, there is, blatantly, jaw-droppingly, without disguise or camouflage or deniability, the conflation of the new president with the mad chimpanzee, who, the day before, mauled a woman. For another, no editorial cartoon at the Post can get into the paper without Allan approving it. He saw it; he got it; he bought it; he published it.

Barack Obama has been a long-simmering issue at the Post. He offends both its tabloid conservatism (however cool and witty it may have become) and, too, its latent, unreconstructed Australian tabloid -- again, say it -- racism. He offends it even more because Rupert Murdoch, the Post’s owner and virtual Godhead, rather likes Obama. The more and more liberal Murdoch -- indeed, he was in Australia earlier this month pressing for looser immigration rules -- has stifled the Post’s reflexive contempt.

So the dam burst. Repressed for most of the past year, the id suddenly broke free. Forget the post-modern crap. This is real, old-fashioned, tabloid hate.

Murdoch, I can make an educated guess, is livid. And Col Allan is shortly on his way back to Australia.

By Alex Koppelman

Alex Koppelman is a staff writer for Salon.

MORE FROM Alex Koppelman

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