NEW YORK — The New York Post is apologizing for a cartoon that critics say links President Barack Obama to a raging chimpanzee shot dead by police in Connecticut. But the newspaper also says the image was exploited by its longtime antagonists.
After two days of protests, the paper posted an editorial on its Web site Thursday saying the cartoon was meant to mock the federal economic stimulus bill, but "to those who were offended by the image, we apologize."
The editorial also says some people who have long-standing differences with the paper saw the cartoon "as an opportunity for payback."
The editorial calls them "opportunists" and says: "To them, no apology is due."
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The drawing was published Wednesday. It shows a dead chimp, with the caption reading: "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."
Demonstrations outside paper
Earlier in the day, hundreds of demonstrators rallied to boycott the paper, branding it as racist.
Demonstrators led by civil rights activist Al Sharpton chanted "End racism now!" outside the parent company's skyscraper in midtown Manhattan and called for the jailing of Rupert Murdoch, whose international media conglomerate News Corp owns the Post.
The newspaper had defended the cartoon as a parody of Washington politics, but Sharpton said it exploited a potent image in the history of racism toward blacks.
The cartoon shows police shooting an ape and plays on the real shooting of a pet chimpanzee that went on a rampage in Connecticut this week.
One of the police officers says, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."
Because Obama promoted the $787 billion economic stimulus that he signed into law on Tuesday, critics of the cartoon interpreted the dead chimp as a reference to Obama, who became the first black U.S. president on January 20.
"I guess they thought we were chimpanzees," Sharpton said. "They will find out we are lions."
"You would have to be in a time warp or in a whole other world not to know what that means," said demonstrator Charles Ashley, 25, a model who did not believe the cartoon was an innocent political joke.
Others said it made light of assassinating Obama, a possibility they said that worries many African-Americans.
"Just the fact that they put a monkey with gunshot wounds in his chest, it gives the idea of an assassination," said Peter Aviles, 48, a building superintendent.
Police in Stamford, Connecticut, shot and killed a 200-pound chimpanzee on Monday after the pet nearly killed its owner's friend and attacked a police car. The chimp, named Travis, had once starred in television commercials and was taking medication for Lyme disease.
The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.