This week, Belgian newspaper De Morgen raised some brows after printing a picture of Barack and Michelle Obama as apes.
The image was photoshopped to illustrate the President and First Lady in the process of evolving from apes to humans. Not surprisingly, the publication was later forced to issue an apology.
The picture was part of a satirical piece that joked about Obama selling marijuana. The joke was supposed to be that the photos had been submitted by Russian president Vladimir Putin, along with a message that read:
Vladimir Putin is the president of Russia. He sent us this attachment at our request, and chose to send pictures instead of text because he doesn’t have a lot of time.
Nigerian-born author Chika Unigwe originally tweeted a photo of the spread:
— chika unigwe (@chikaunigwe) March 22, 2014
Once it became clear that many people found this joke deeply offensive, the newspaper offered this statement.
When you consider the fragment apart from its context, which is a properly worked out satirical section, then you don’t see the joke but just a picture evoking sheer racism. We wrongly assumed that racism is no longer accepted, and that in this way it could be the subject of a joke.
In this case, we plead guilty of bad taste. We continue to be on the side of those that are battling any form of racism.
This all comes on the heels of Univision’s Rodner Figueroa being fired for suggesting that the first lady could have been cast in the Planet of the Apes franchise.