Satire? That's The New Yorker's blanket defense for its controversial cover depicting Sen. Barack Obama as an American-flag-burning, Osama-Bin-Laden-loving Muslim intent on taking up residence in the White House. Michelle Obama isn't spared either, as she's portrayed as a machine-gun-toting, 60s-style-Afro-wearing radical. In short, the cover plays on every ugly, misinformed stereotype the Obama campaign has been battling for the past year.
And of course, there's the fist bump the couple shared the night he effectively clinched the nomination … which FOX News suggested was a "terrorist fist jab." Seriously. But ask The New Yorker about it and their defense falls under one word: satire.
The Obama campaign made it clear they felt otherwise. "The New Yorker may think, as one of their staff explained to us, that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Sen. Obama's right-wing critics have tried to create," said Obama spokesperson Bill Burton in a statement. "But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree."
The John McCain camp agreed it was out of bounds, telling The Associated Press it was "tasteless and offensive."
Former Democratic Congressman Harold Ford Jr., who is Black, criticized the cover on the "Today" show Monday, saying: "It's curious that a magazine would go to this length to make this kind of a statement when a portion of this country, particularly in Midwestern and rustbelt states, still believe Barack Obama, because of Internet campaigns, wrongly believe he may be a Muslim, and they equate that with terrorist activity."
Amina Rubin, a spokesperson with the Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR), also condemned the cover. "I think the efforts by The New Yorker and others we've seen are really playing off of and exploiting existing anti-Muslim sentiment in our country. We agree with both campaigns that the cover is tasteless and offensive," she says. "It looks more like it was done to promote controversy and get media attention than to try and make a serious political point."
Rubin acknowledged that repeated insinuations that Obama is Muslim place him in the awkward position of having to profess his Christianity without appearing to smear those of Muslim faith.
"As we see in our work, there's still a very concerning amount of anti-Muslim sentiment in our country, which can be used as a fear tactic by political groups who are looking for ways to harm a candidate," Rubin says. "It's unfortunate that saying he's a Muslim could be used as a smear, and we should take a look at what that means in our society." (MORE)