New York magazine published picture of Obama evolving from ape to human

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New York magazine has pulled down a picture meant to show President Obama’s “evolution” on the issue gay marriage, after the image — of Obama seeming to evolve from ape to human, went viral in the worst way.

The picture appeared in a post by New York magazine writer Dan Amira, in which he criticized the response of White House spokesman Jay Carney to a question regarding an appeals court striking down California’s anti-gay marriage law, Proposition 8. Carney said the president is still “evolving” on the issue of gay marriage, a position that gay marriage advocates find insufficient. The picture was meant to illustrate the president’s slow progress toward full support for gay marriage, and showed him morphing from an ape to human form, with the final iteration carrying a rainbow flag.

Not surprisingly, many African-Americans took offense at the image, and as the Washington Post’s Marry Curtis put it:

how could the magazine miss the subtext the illustration conveyed, that the humanity of an African-American president rests on his support of same-sex marriage?

For those linking the gay rights struggle to historical civil rights battles, this might not have been the smartest way to make a point.

An editor’s note under the original post contains the expected mea culpas:

This post originally used a variation on an iconic illustration of the evolution of man, known as the ‘March of Progress’, which concluded with an image of President Obama holding a rainbow flag. The illustration was intended simply as a symbolic representation of the President’s self-described “evolution” on gay rights, but has been criticized for its similarity to various racist depictions of the president and African-Americans in general. While that was not the context of the image (in fact, Daily Intel has criticized such representations before), we recognize that images of this nature do carry troubling associations, and so it’s been removed from the post. We apologize for the offense it has caused.

But you’ve got to wonder what the editors were thinking in the first place. With an African-American president in the White House, the “too clever by half” attempt to ding the president for not being where the editors want him to be on gay marriage was a colossal failure of judgment.

The depiction of black people as monkeys is one of the oldest and most derisive stereotypes in the book. And for a magazine that leans progressive to stumble into that kind of a mistake, particularly to make a point that a growing number of African-Americans agree with makes you wonder whether there isn’t as much racial insensitivity and cluelessness on the left as there sometimes is on the right.

Follow Joy Reid on Twitter at @thereidreport