NEW YORK (AFP) — Barack Obama's campaign decried Monday a satirical cartoon on the cover of The New Yorker magazine showing the Democratic presidential hopeful wearing Islamic dress while his wife holds a Kalashnikov.
The influential weekly defended its cover, titled "The Politics of Fear," as a critique of unfounded allegations during the campaign that have attempted to paint Obama, who is Christian, as a closet radical Muslim.
"The New Yorker may think, as one of their staff explained to us, that their cover is a satirical lampoon of the caricature Senator Obama's right-wing critics have tried to create," Obama spokesman Bill Burton said.
"But most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive. And we agree," he said in a statement.
The campaign of Obama's Republican rival, John McCain, took his side.
"We completely agree with the Obama campaign that it is tasteless and offensive," spokesman Tucker Bounds said.
The Obama campaign has fended off attempts to question his patriotism and religion, creating a website, www.fightthesmears.com, to debunk false rumors against the candidate propagated online.
The cartoon drawn by Barry Blitt shows the couple standing in the White House's Oval Office with an American flag burning in the fireplace under a portrait of Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden.
Obama, who aims to become the first African-American US president, wears a robe and turban while his wife Michelle is in military fatigues with a Kalashnikov strapped to her back.
The couple also give each other a fist bump -- a common greeting they have given each other in public and which a Fox News television presenter once called a "terrorist fist jab."
"Our cover 'The Politics of Fear' combines a number of fantastical images about the Obamas and shows them for the obvious distortions they are," said New Yorker editor David Remnick.
"The burning flag, the nationalist-radical and Islamic outfits, the fist-bump, the portrait on the wall -- all of them echo one attack or another," he said.
"Satire is part of what we do, and it is meant to bring things out into the open, to hold up a mirror to prejudice, the hateful, and the absurd. And that's the spirit of this cover."
The editor noted that the magazine includes two "very serious" articles about Obama -- a commentary and a 15,000-word reporting piece on the candidate's political education and rise in Chicago.
The cartoonist, for his part, defended his drawing.
"I think the idea that the Obamas are branded as unpatriotic (let alone as terrorists) in certain sectors is preposterous," Blitt told the Huffington Post website.
"It seemed to me that depicting the concept would show it as the fear-mongering ridiculousness that it is," he said.
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