Newspaper Boycott Urged Over Cartoon : Media: Sacramento Bee officials apologize for use of a racial epithet. But NAACP leader is calling for resignations and 955 readers have canceled their subscriptions.
The Sacramento Bee apologized Tuesday to readers who were offended by its use of a racial epithet in an editorial cartoon last week, but critics pressed for a boycott of the state capital’s only daily newspaper.
Nate White, president of the National Assn. for the Advancement of Colored People’s Sacramento chapter, urged the resignations of editorial cartoonist Dennis Renault and editorial page editor Peter Schrag, while a city councilman pushed for passage of a resolution denouncing the Bee.
“I thought it was repugnant, right in the middle of Black History Month,” White said Tuesday. “It almost made me spill coffee in my lap.”
By Tuesday afternoon, 955 subscribers had canceled their subscriptions, evidently heeding the call to boycott the paper for two months in what organizers of the action were calling a “fine.” The Bee has a daily circulation of 275,000 and 340,000 on Sunday.
The cartoon, which appeared Friday, portrayed two Ku Klux Klan members reading a statement by Louis Farrakhan in which the Nation of Islam leader says, “You can’t be a racist by talking--only by acting.” In the caption, one of the klansmen says: “That nigger makes a lot of sense.”
The cartoon was intended as an attack on Farrakhan, who demoted his national spokesman, Khalid Abdul Muhammad, but who also defended the “truths” of Muhammad’s statements against Jews and others.
In a city where there were five racially motivated fire bombings last year, the reaction was swift. Readers telephoned the paper with protests on Friday, prompting Schrag to reply on Saturday that the cartoon was “designed to show bigotry’s ugly face. The Bee regrets any offense or misunderstanding it caused.”
The reaction continued Monday when more than 300 protesters of the remark attended a meeting at St. Andrews African Methodist Episcopal Church in Sacramento, while another 100 Bee staff members packed an auditorium at the paper Monday to debate the cartoon.
At Tuesday’s City Council meeting, Councilman Sam Panell said he would introduce a resolution condemning the cartoon. Panell called the use of “the N-word totally disrespectful and the Bee was insensitive.”
In an interview Tuesday, Schrag said, “We did not use that word to offend. We used that word to make a point. I’m terribly sorry they were hurt.”
Schrag and the Bee had their defenders.
“Peter Schrag has the insight to see that bigotry can wear a white robe or it can be in the form of anti-Semitic comment,” Barry Loncke, a member of the NAACP and a Sacramento Municipal Court judge, said in an interview. “Calling for his resignation is a joke.”
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