The cartoon on the cover of the latest New Yorker magazine depicting Barack Obama and his wife, Michelle, as militant radicals drew the ire of the presidential candidates Monday and posed the question of how satirical journalism affects voters during an election season.
The Obama campaign, as well as Republican rival John McCain, civil rights activist Al Sharpton and Rep. Rahm Emanuel (D-Ill.) slammed the cover as offensive. The cover shows a caricature of Obama as a Muslim, standing in the Oval Office with a U.S. flag burning in the fireplace and a painting of Osama bin Laden hanging on the wall. Obama is giving a fist bump to his wife, who is pictured with an Afro hairstyle, wearing military fatigues with a rifle slung over her shoulder.
Former Al Gore spokesman Chris Lehane said the magazine’s clear intent is to satirize the false rumors about the Obamas. Among other things, some Obama critics have erroneously claimed he is Muslim. Kelly McBride, head of the ethics faculty at the Poynter Institute, a media research group, said the magazine could have helped its readers understand the cartoon was satire by printing the cartoon’s title, “The Politics of Fear,” on the cover.
In a statement, the magazine defended the cover, saying satire is part of its business and is “meant to bring things out into the open, to hold up a mirror to prejudice, the hateful, and the absurd.”
M. Yaser Tabbara, director of community development at the Council on American-Islamic Relations, said the imagery is troubling because it places rumors about Obama’s religion on the same level as flag-burning and support for bin Laden.
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