July 14th, 2008
02:42 PM ET

New Yorker cartoon: Satire is the message

Steve Turnham
AC360° Producer

You can search all you like for context to the suddenly infamous New Yorker cover in the pages of the magazine, but there's no point.

New Yorker covers are generally stand-alone commentaries, unconnected to the content of the magazine. The big story on Obama this week is about his rise in Chicago politics. There's a short piece too, about his move to the center. Neither refers to the misconceptions about his faith.

The New Yorker covers are often funny, sometimes sublime (the all-black memorial to the twin towers stands out), and occasionally off key.

Depending on how you see it, the Obama cover is either a brave attempt to force readers to confront the mistruths about the candidate, or an ill-conceived and offensive attack. Or both.

Beat 360°

Filed under: 360° Radar
soundoff (125 Responses)
  1. Annie Kate

    The cover is satire – a summation in one picture of all the wrong beliefs that are out there about Obama. Why are we so thin-skinned anymore – we take offense at the slightest provocation and yell that its "tasteless and offensive". Obama's campaign is especially into calling things "offensive" – it makes me wonder if he really thinks so or he's using different things to keep his name in the news each day. To be President and survive the ups and downs of political polls, the constant questioning of his actions, and the conversations with other nations, Obama needs to grow up and quit whining. Does he seriously thing he should be immune to all of these things just because he has declared himself a new type of politician?

    Annie Kate
    Birmingham AL

    July 14, 2008 at 8:26 pm |
  2. Stacy - Houston TX

    One word: REPUBLICANS

    I guess the persons responsible for this cover has DUMASS as their last name (and yes I know how to spell DUMB).

    This picture says so much: like The New Yorker obviously does not like black people or Muslims; this type of hatred is unacceptable in today's society.

    The GOP is so behind this. It seems hard for some to come to grips with the fact that Sen. Obama will be our next president.... oh well, GET OVER IT.

    July 14, 2008 at 8:19 pm |
  3. Carol

    Sometimes I wonder if Obama ever questions if this is really worth it. I am disappointed that this race has turned so racial, so ugly, and so divisive.

    Being in an interracial marriage and having two bi-racial children, I was really happy with Obama's success. I thought it was proof that America has moved on – we can begin to put racial and ethnic divides behind us. We can show the world that we are an open-minded country. We can show children that, it's true, anyone can grow up to be President.

    Instead, the divide seems to be getting worse. The vicious comments coming from both sides, black and white, are unbelieveable. When I hear this stuff I think, wow, is that what people really think? What planet have I been on?

    I'm always the skeptic, the doubter, but I guess I was kind of naive on this one. I thought this candidacy was going to show the best side of the USA – but, instead, it seems to be bringing out the worst in all of us.

    July 14, 2008 at 8:02 pm |
  4. tonio

    Okay! Now that has got to be the funniest cover picture in a long time. I mean, I know it's offensive, but how creative must these guys be for coming up with such material !!! It is offensive though...

    July 14, 2008 at 7:52 pm |
  5. Michael, CA

    I'm looking forward to the cover on John McCain. I'd like to see how his supporters react to him being shown in the most vile and unAmerican manner possible. I'm sure they won't be upset at all.

    July 14, 2008 at 7:49 pm |
  6. ANGIE

    i think it was awful yes they meant satire but to put it on the front page and make it dramatic as they did was tasteless anybody who even glances it and dosent read the article will look at the obamas in a bad way very disapointing lot of friends who are going to be cancelling their subscriptions!!!

    July 14, 2008 at 7:45 pm |
  7. Mari, Salt Lake City

    The problem with the cover of the New Yorker is that it feeds the fear-hate-and-lies that are "out there"!

    Most Americans will ONLY SEE the cartoon, NOT READ the corresponding article.... that's why this upsets so many of us.

    Sure, people can say what they want, but regardless this cartoon will inflame the fear of some very dense-bigoted people!

    And let me ask......... since when is being a Muslim wrong? Oh..... I forgot, we live in a Muslim-phobic nation. Sad thing is that the cover says more about, US, than we like to admit.

    July 14, 2008 at 7:44 pm |
  8. Matthew

    This was not an attack on Obama, but black women, past black leaders, and muslim people. Ultimately bias against those who are not depicted as American. But I think it is even more reason for Obama to work harder to dissassociate from those segragated groups of America. Which I know with the help of the media he will use it for good.

    July 14, 2008 at 7:34 pm |
  9. Larry

    Knee-jerk reaction from folk that can't get past the front cover. Even the Brits see the the cover for what it is.

    July 14, 2008 at 7:18 pm |
  10. Cynthia

    The Obama campaign needs to get over itself. If they thought nobody would poke fun at them then they are naive at best and certainly not ready for a presidential campaign where we all know anything goes.

    July 14, 2008 at 7:09 pm |
  11. Carmelita


    I really am offended and I am not even an American. Most of the bloggers, so far seem to have common sense, but for the ones who keep harping about freedom of speech ; answer me this question. Would you be offended if that was a satarical poster depicting your family?

    I am sorry, the New Yorke may hide behind the guise that they are poking fun at the Obama's, but we all know the truth. That cover is a blantant disrespect of the presidential candidate and his wife as well as a slap in the face for good measure.

    I find it ironic that Americans get all bent out of shape when people from the middle east burns the american flag and denounces America, yet here is an American (asuming the peron who is responsible is an American), drawing the American flag burning in a fire-place, in the white house non-the-less. There is also a picture of one of America's sworn enemies on the wall, how dumb is that?

    Cant wait to see if the New Yorker will do a cover of the McCains and if the same poor taste will be used.

    Racism, comes in all forms and unfortunately I believe that this is a form that is generally used by the media to depict people that they classify as minorities. SHAME ON YOU!


    July 14, 2008 at 7:06 pm |
  12. Michelle

    I'm not upset because the New Yorker made a satirical cartoon about Obama; I'm upset because the entire cartoon missed the mark with being funny. I've read comments about the cartoon on other sites and there is an overwhelming consensus of "see, I told you so! He is a Muslim!"- an important and large part of America doesn't understand the cartoons satirical message, and I don't blame them. This is a HUGE step back for America in getting over its fear of Islam and its uncertainty about Obama.

    July 14, 2008 at 6:57 pm |
  13. Larry

    Since Ted Kennedy's and John McCain's wife are the sme age then having both the old geezers and their wives in diapers on the cover would be funny.

    July 14, 2008 at 6:27 pm |
  14. Jan from Wood Dale IL

    Most of the New Yorker cover is satire, but who knew Obama would flip flop on gun ownership? Seeing the truth hurts sometimes.

    July 14, 2008 at 6:23 pm |
  15. JC- Los Angeles

    Great stuff; they should do one with John McCain as the Tin Man and Cindy as Dorothy oiling his creeky joints.

    July 14, 2008 at 6:16 pm |
  16. Brooke

    This is SATIRE. Saying one lie at a time must be okay to some people, but when those lies are grouped together it is an outrage to those same individuals. Look at this magazine as a guide to how ridiculous those inaccuracies have been about Obama.

    July 14, 2008 at 6:10 pm |
  17. Aaron-Hawesville,KY

    Last time I checked we had the Freedom of Speech.There job at The New Yorker is to be critical.If someone had done something of the sort to another candidate,it would have gone unnoticed.At least not all of the media is in bed with Obama!

    July 14, 2008 at 6:08 pm |
  18. Peggy

    Love the New Yorker....hate the Obama cover !

    While freedom of the press is a democratic necessity, it is predicated on the belief that good judgment prevails. That is why we don't see gory pictures of accidents live on TV, or video executions.

    This cover is evidence of a significant lack of judgment by the artist and the editors. I was so offended by the cover, I couldn't see the satire through the anger.

    July 14, 2008 at 6:07 pm |
  19. c moon

    please. dear writer , don't cancel your nyorker subscription. it won't dumbdown the writing, yes it has a point of view ( grounded in good investigative jounalism) and it has a pretty good history of being closer to the truth. read the article;you will then be prepared to decimate the smears that are coming obamas way.

    July 14, 2008 at 5:59 pm |
  20. abigail


    the Oval Office setting in the cartoon is particularly offensive and unfunny.

    July 14, 2008 at 5:56 pm |
  21. abigail

    A cover picture influences those who glimpse it in passing, those who may not read thoughtful articles on the candidates.. I am horrified that The Media ignore what is a known fact: there are Americans who believe everything that is pictured on that cover, and, for them, the cover is poking fun at Barack Obama and Michelle. Of course, the cartoon might be a satire on the outrageousness of such beliefs if presented in a different context. On the cover? Not.

    July 14, 2008 at 5:52 pm |
  22. Alheli Picazo, Calgary, Alberta, Canada

    Unfortunately, the uneducated/racist/bigots out there won't even read the magazine...they'll look at the cover and say "AHA! I knew it!"
    Good attempt at satire, but very, VERY poor taste. I think it was a terrible idea.
    Just look at the comments some people made after a certain primary on why they didn't vote Obama:

    "I've had enough of Osama"
    "We can't have a radical muslum in the white house"

    Very sad indeed.

    July 14, 2008 at 5:45 pm |
  23. Caycee

    The cover hits a new high in fear-mongering and distrust for Obama and Michelle because it conveys more than a story ever could.
    In this case the"cover story" was only a CYA to use that particular "satirical" picture and sell magazines. The picture sets such a high low that there'll probably be more coming out to try and top it. It goes to prove that some people and some organizations will do anything to make a buck.

    July 14, 2008 at 5:43 pm |
  24. caitlin Moon

    i am going to give new yorker mag subscriptions to all of the relatives this christmas ( 10 that i exchange gifts with ) i am an obama supporter and i thought they got the cover just about right. these are exactly the stereotypes that the fraud, rush limbaugh, the fixer, roger ailes, and the desperate war wing of the republican party are implanting in the minds of an average american voter. so, if anyone from the obama camp is offended, if my dear neighbor and fox devotee thinks his greatest fear has been confirmed........read the article. oh yah, and turn off the t.v.

    July 14, 2008 at 5:25 pm |
  25. Melissa, Los Angeles

    I'm suppose to find the American flag burning in the fireplace and a portrait of some unknown man in a turban to be funny? Looking beyond the images of Obama and his wife – this is not funny in the least.

    July 14, 2008 at 5:23 pm |
  26. Katie

    Senator Obama should not dignify it w/any retort. This type of "Satire" cartoon drawing has been used since John Adams was President. Let it go, because I can promise there'll be more before this election is over. Stick to the issue's, ignore the Bernie Mac jokes, the Jesse Jackson "is the mike on?" blooper and argue the facts. For once, I'd dearly love to see both candidates rise above this media promoted lunacy With the economy in trouble, the Iraq war, the illegal problem, American's want to hear Obama/McCain discuss solutions, not a Presidential candidate or his organization waste value time by trying to defend themselves against freedom of speech(the press) attacks, one of this country's most valued rights. Just rise above it and talk about what's really out of wack in this country and what they'll do to correct it.

    July 14, 2008 at 5:21 pm |
  27. Bob McVey

    As a former newspaper publisher who has used satire on many occasions to mock those who would sell their rights cheaply and refuse to think for themselves, I found this a sad example.

    It lacks a punchline that Oliphant would deliver with his little helper, and that others would add with the right people peeping in a window. Poorly done with good intentions, in my opinion, by a magazine I regard rather highly.

    July 14, 2008 at 5:12 pm |
  28. Anita

    The next New Yorker cover should show an even(older) McCain using a walker and
    his even (younger) wife in pampers...then lets see how funny it is!

    I was not a supporter of Obama...but I'm starting to think: why not support him!

    July 14, 2008 at 5:01 pm |
  29. sharon

    This about as dirty and underhanded as it can get. If that is suppose to be funny I can't see it. To me it is pure racism.

    July 14, 2008 at 4:55 pm |
  30. Fay, CA

    I agree with Cynthia–unfortunately there are far too many people who don't have a clue what "satire" is and will only have their doubts about Barack and Michelle Obama reinforced by this cover.

    July 14, 2008 at 4:51 pm |
  31. Pat

    It would be less offensive if it were funny. Satire is suppose to be funny. With some type of punch to it. This is not. It is offensive and tasteless.

    July 14, 2008 at 4:42 pm |
  32. sj

    I do agree that this cover is great satire. Think about if it were an SNL sketch, this would be in a Best Of episode; however, this is a picture and not a sketch. While the article itself has a positive view about Obama, few people will go beyond the cover and actually read the article. Chalk it up to a general lack of desire to read in America, or to a marketing age marked by a plethora of images with only 10-word captions, but I do not believe meaning of the article will get heard over the blaring image on the cover.

    July 14, 2008 at 4:39 pm |
  33. Larry

    @Diego. You are quite right about the radical element.
    Wolf Blitzer demeans the intelligence of Americans of every color.

    July 14, 2008 at 4:34 pm |
  34. Perry Korse

    I am canceling my New Yorker magazine today and will give the refund to the Obama campaign.

    July 14, 2008 at 4:31 pm |
  35. Cynthia

    The cover was tasteless and offensive. I'm sure that some people will see the "satire" in the cover but most people that already beleive those things to be true will see it as a confirmation. I think it shows disrespect to the Presidential candidate. Will we see one with the McCain's on it – there is a whole lot about them that is true that would make a tasteless and offensive cover.

    July 14, 2008 at 4:30 pm |
  36. Larry

    Geez, get over it; its yesterday's news.

    What next, sack the paper and torch the building?

    July 14, 2008 at 4:24 pm |
  37. HF in CA

    I find it neither offensive or tasteless...and I wouldn't if John McCain were treated the same way. It's called freedom of the press and/or freedom of speech!

    It gives us pause to think...some people need to just relax a little.

    July 14, 2008 at 4:21 pm |
  38. Charlotte D

    I think the cover is tasteless and offensive. I don't buy or read The New Yorker, so my opinion is no loss to them. I would also think it tasteless and offensive if next month they show Cindy McCain holding a bottle of pills in one hand pushing McCain in a wheel chair. Or Laura Bush joy riding in a jeep with George in the passenger side with a beer bottle in his hand hanging out the window. I hope I didn't give them any ideas here.

    July 14, 2008 at 4:09 pm |
  39. Tammy

    This satire displays the lack of sensibility and the lack of RACIAL diversity that publication has in the hierarchy of its staff members. I cannot believe that a person of color would have let that illustration pass the first round of scrutiny before being printed. Shame on you New Yorker.

    July 14, 2008 at 3:56 pm |
  40. Victor in Saanich, B.C. Canada

    Good to see that RACISM is alive and well in the GOOD OL' USA!!
    Tasteless beyond words to say the least!!
    Your flag burning in the fireplace – now was that necessary above all the rest of the crap!!!

    July 14, 2008 at 3:52 pm |
  41. Diego

    Does anyone else see the parallel between the outrage of Obama's supporters and that of the radicals that condemned the Danish cartoons of Mohammed?

    To call anyone that does not fanatically support Obama an ignorant or racist is not the best way to gain votes.

    Some Obama supporters are acting as radicals worshiping their leader. Do they really think that attitude helps dispel the unfounded rumors about his faith?

    July 14, 2008 at 3:43 pm |
  42. Kevin Leo (Jonesboro, GA)

    I am all for the First Amendment and free speech however I liken this cover to the classic arguement of a person yelling "fire" in a movie theater. If you have to explain a satirical cartoon, then obviously you have failed to properly convey your point, especially one that could have greater meaning than what you may have been trying to convey.

    Viewing this "satire", I thought of the different Jim Crow commentaries and cartoons that often portrayed African-Americans, women, and other minorities in less than flattering images all under the guise of satire or polictical commentary.Just when you think this nation is starting to take a few steps forward, we are suddenly reminded that the track is still moving backwards under our very feet!

    July 14, 2008 at 3:33 pm |
  43. Larry

    Will CNN ever do a complete investigation on Obama's background with regards to Kenya and Indonesia?
    His dad was still married to a woman in Kenya, with a son and another child on the way.
    There is too little, if any, documentation on Obama; his campaign has been busy in Kenya, what are they trying to cover up?

    July 14, 2008 at 3:32 pm |
  44. Teresa, OH

    I dont find it offensive at all. It's just a Halloween cover isnt it?
    And, if I might say so, Michelle Obama looks pretty hot.

    The cover is genius. I hope they do one for all candidates.

    July 14, 2008 at 3:26 pm |
  45. Mike, Syracuse, NY

    When a Danish newspaper published a caricature of Mohammed, there were riots in the Arab world. To their credit, the papaer didn't back down citing freedom of speech. Why is this different? If it were McCain the liberals would have been rolling in the aisle.

    July 14, 2008 at 3:26 pm |
  46. Kent Fitzsimmons,Kewanee, IL

    I believe that the GOP is behind the NYkr cover. Put nothing by them..........they know they are behind. And yes.............this will sell a lot of this magazine that no one buys or reads. I'm surprised this mag is still in business................Yes, it is very offensive....................

    July 14, 2008 at 3:25 pm |
  47. Lilibeth

    I look at this as an opportunity for Sen. Obama to clear the air on his faith, once and for all. It may seem offensive now, but as people learn the truth about his religion (as a result of the publicity), it may be looked upon as a blessing in disguise.

    Edmonds, Washington

    July 14, 2008 at 3:19 pm |
  48. Larry

    Will the NAACP Convention be aired on the Barack Obama only station TV One? Wonder if McCain will get his own Tv station

    If it was John McCain & his wife on the cover, then no one would care.

    July 14, 2008 at 3:14 pm |
  49. Cindy

    I guess the New Yorker cover being offensive is all in how you look at it. It can be seen I guess as a way to get people to look at all of the rumors about him and to really see if they are true or not. But to me I see it as offensive and I don't even like the guy! It looks like to me that they took all of the misconceptions about him, threw it all on one picture and put it out to cause more drama for Obama.

    Not to mention the real reason they do stuff like this! The MIGHTY DOLLAR!! They know this will get them more people to buy this or look at it on the net and to talk about it.


    July 14, 2008 at 2:59 pm |
  50. Renee

    Pedophiles, rapists, killers and terrorists offend me. This cover is great satire and 1st amendment rights to publish this story. If the Obama camp and his groupies are so offended then let them sue The New Yorker.

    At least some media outlet is properly vetting this campaign. The networks and CNN continue to report on the soundbite of the day in lieu of giving us the facts about this man.

    He claims to be a Christian but is he? We all know Mrs. O is probably not a terrorist or do we? Do Americans really know what Obama stands for? I can't wait to read the article in its entirety.

    July 14, 2008 at 2:48 pm |
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