Sharpton seeks pressure on NY Post

February 22, 2009 8:36:13 PM PST
The Rev. Al Sharpton prodded the Federal Communications Commission and the city government Sunday to put pressure on the New York Post over a cartoon that critics call a racist jibe at President Barack Obama. The civil rights activist circulated an electronic petition asking the FCC to review policies allowing Post owner News Corp. to control multiple media outlets in the same market, and he said he would ask the city to stop advertising in and even subscribing to the newspaper.

"The FCC must impose some checks and balances on these entities," he said in an interview. "It does not serve the public good to have large segments of the public offended."

Representatives for the Post and the FCC did not immediately respond to telephone and e-mail messages Sunday evening. Mayor Michael Bloomberg and City Council Speaker Christine Quinn had no immediate comment, their representatives said.

The cartoon has sparked pickets outside the paper's offices and spurred the NAACP to call for a boycott of the paper and the removal of its editor-in-chief, Col Allan, and longtime cartoonist Sean Delonas. Filmmaker Spike Lee and Grammy-winning singer John Legend have been among those condemning the image.

It depicts a dead chimpanzee and two police officers, with a caption saying, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill." It was published Wednesday, the day after Obama signed the federal economic stimulus package - a key piece of his administration's efforts to combat the recession - and two days after police killed a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut.

The Post has said the cartoon was meant to ridicule Washington's efforts to revive the economy, but critics say it echoes stereotypes of blacks as monkeys and even hints at assassinating the president.

A Post editorial posted online Thursday apologized to anyone offended by the cartoon, while also saying that longtime critics of the provocative, right-leaning tabloid had exploited the image for "payback."

Sharpton also said he would ask the City Council to seek records of the racial breakdown of the Post's newsroom staff, saying he wanted to see a rise in the "level of diversity and accountability."

Rupert Murdoch's News Corp. also owns two New York-area TV stations and Dow Jones & Co., the parent company of The Wall Street Journal, as well as the Fox network and other media assets around the world.