Rupert Murdoch apologizes for NY Post chimp cartoon

NEW YORK (Reuters) - New York Post Chairman Rupert Murdoch apologized in print on Tuesday for a cartoon that ignited protests from readers who saw it as a racist depiction of President Barack Obama as a chimpanzee.

Protesters march outside the News Corp. headquarters in New York February 19, 2009. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The Post previously issued a partial apology in an editorial, saying no apology was due to “some in the media and in public life who have had differences with The Post.” That was seen as a reference to civil rights activist Al Sharpton, who led the protests against the cartoon.

In an article headlined “Statement from Rupert Murdoch” on page 2, Murdoch said the February 18 cartoon was a mistake that offended many people.

“Today I want to personally apologize to any reader who felt offended, and even insulted,” said Murdoch, head of the media giant News Corp, which owns the Post.

“We all hold the readers of the New York Post in high regard and I promise you that we will seek to be more attuned to the sensitivities of our community,” Murdoch wrote.

The cartoon of a policeman shooting an ape played on the real shooting of a pet chimpanzee in Connecticut. A police officer in the cartoon says, “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.”

The cartoon ran a day after Obama signed into law the $787 billion economic stimulus that he had strongly promoted, and the connection offended those who likened it to the racist, historic comparison of blacks to lower primates.

Demonstrators led by Sharpton chanted “End racism now!” outside the News Corp headquarters and called for the jailing of Murdoch.

The newspaper initially defended the cartoon as a parody of Washington politics, but Sharpton said it exploited a potent image in the history of racism toward black people.

“I have had conversations with Post editors about the situation and I can assure you -- without a doubt -- that 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,” Murdoch said.

The cartoon linked the stimulus bill to an incident in Stamford, Connecticut, where police shot and killed a 200-pound (90 kg) chimpanzee after the pet nearly killed its owner’s friend and attacked a police car.

Reporting by Daniel Trotta; Editing by Doina Chiacu