The New Yorker cover of Barack Obama and his wife has caused controversy in the US, as it depicts the Democratic candidate as a Muslim and his wife, Michelle, in camouflage fatigues with a gun strapped to her shoulder, and a portrait of Osama bin Laden hanging over the mantel.
According to the magazine, the cartoon on its cover was satirical and designed to mock the misconceptions US voters have about Mr Obama. The illustration by Barry Blitt shows the couple standing in the presidential Oval Office in front of a fireplace in which an American flag is burning.
Barack Obama is wearing sandals, robe and turban, and his wife is dressed in camouflage pants, combat boots and an assault rifle.
The New Yorker issue, titled The Politics of Fear, hit the newsstands on Monday.
When asked about the cartoon, Barack Obama did not respond, but Bill Burton, a campaign spokesman, condemned it. He said that the magazine might think of it as “a satirical lampoon of the caricature Senator Obama’s right-wing critics have tried to create, but most readers will see it as tasteless and offensive, and we agree”.
‘Echo one attack or another’
The cover was “totally inappropriate”, said the Republican presidential candidate, John McCain.
The drawing “combines a number of fantastical images about the Obamas and shows them for the obvious distortions they are”, said The New Yorker.
“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”, it said on Monday.
“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.”
There also were two “very serious” articles on Obama in the same issue, added the magazine.
People who read The New Yorker would see the cover’s satirical character as obvious, said Patrick Egan, an assistant professor of politics at New York University.
“Anyone who knows anything about the New Yorker is going to be able to recognise that this is satire”, he told Al Jazeera.
“It’s taking what some Americans falsely believe and blowing it up to literally cartoonish proportions. And, in that sense, it is sophisticated satire and something that a lot of people can kind of laugh over.”
The misconceptions about Barack Obama have been highlighted by the cartoon. Recently, a Newsweek magazine poll showed that more than a quarter of the American electorate believe that Obama was raised a Muslim and 12 per cent believe he remains a practising Muslim.
But Mr Obama is a Christian, and in order to combat rumors spreading on the internet about his faith and character, his campaign has had to set up what it calls an anti-smear website.