The editor of the Daily Lobo, the student newspaper of the University of New Mexico, issued an apology in response to criticism from students after it published this Hajo cartoon about the death of Osama bin Laden. Many of the protesters said they thought the cartoon resembled images used in the past to justify slavery.

Obama Lion King cartoon baboon

Cartoon by Hajo (click to enlarge)

The cartoon parodies a famous scene from “The Lion King,” having Obama play the role of Rafiki, the baboon. Instead of holding up Simba to announce his birth, Obama is holding up the head of Osama bin Laden, announcing his death. It’s the same scene that Obama tweaked Donald Trump with as a joke at the White House correspondents dinner last week.

We syndicate Hajo’s cartoons.  Hajo is based in the Netherlands and draws for the Dutch newspapers NRC Handelsblad, NRC Next and de Pers.

“I’m so NOT racist,” Hajo said via email. “I see Obama a president and a person. And therefore I think it’s OK to let the president act in the Lion King.”

As a European cartoonist, Hajo is less aware of the sensitivity among readers when they see Obama as a monkey. Still. he said he should have known better.

“Not everyone can ‘read’ a cartoon,” Hajo said.  “Some people get stuck in simple stereotypes. And that’s too bad, because a lot of the humor and insight lies behind the obvious.”

“Regrettably, this cartoon offended the African-American community — along with many others — who interpreted Obama’s representation as racist,” write Chris Quintana, the editor of the Daily Lobo. “For this oversight, I sincerely apologize.”

In 2009, New York Post cartoonist Sean Delonas drew the now-infamous cartoon showing a chimp shot by two policeman, who say “They’ll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill.” The prevailing view among the bloggers and talking-heads back then was the cartoon was a racist depiction of Obama as a monkey.

Back then, I suggested that every cartoonist should make a list of every racial stereotype to avoid regarding African-Americans, then go through the check list before putting pen to paper on any Obama cartoon, like a pilot goes through a check list before taking off in his plane.

The difficulty of course is that many cartoonists drew George W. Bush as a monkey. The cartoonists all chose to draw Bush with big monkey ears and a huge, monkey-like upper lip, so drawing Bush as a monkey was a natural progression. Now the cartoonists are all drawing Obama with similar, big monkey ears and we’re starting to hear complaints from readers about how we draw Obama’s lips.  Presidents also get shorter in cartoons if they don’t perform well, and chimps are short, forcing cartoonists to have to tiptoe through a racial-metaphor-minefield.