At first glance, the main editorial cartoon in today's New York Post seemed like just another lurid reference to the story that the tabloid had been covering with breathless abandon for two days running - the shooting by Connecticut police on Monday of a pet chimpanzee that viciously attacked his owner's friend.
But the caption cast the cartoon in a more sinister light. "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill," it read, prompting accusations that the Post was peddling a longstanding racist slur by portraying president Barack Obama, who signed the bill into law yesterday, as an ape.
In a statement issued today, Al Sharpton, the Baptist minister and civil rights activist, called the cartoon "troubling at best, given the historic racist attacks [on] African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys".
He added: "Being that the stimulus bill has been the first legislative victory of President Barack Obama ... and has become synonymous with him, it is not a reach to wonder: are they inferring that a monkey wrote the last bill?... The Post should at best clarify what point they were trying to make, or in fact reprimand their cartoonist."
David Paterson, the governor of New York state, told a local television station that it was "very important for the New York Post to explain what the cartoon was intended to portray".
In response, the newspaper's editor-in-chief, Col Allen, noted Sharpton's love of media attention. "The cartoon is a clear parody of a current news event, to wit the shooting of a violent chimpanzee in Connecticut," he said. "It broadly mocks Washington's efforts to revive the economy. Again, Al Sharpton reveals himself as nothing more than a publicity opportunist."
T-shirts portraying Obama as the children's book character Curious George, a monkey, made occasional appearances among audience members at Republican rallies during last year's election campaign, and a similar stuffed doll continues to be advertised online.
The Post's cartoonist Sean Delonas, meanwhile, has frequently been accused of bigotry: the New York gossip blog Gawker once nicknamed him "the Picasso of prejudice".
The criticism has centred on his portrayals of gay characters, which have linked homosexuality to bestiality. The pressure group Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation has repeatedly called his work "juvenile" and "immature".
The Post, which is owned by Rupert Murdoch, endorsed Obama over Hillary Clinton in the Democratic primaries, but John McCain in the general election.
I heard about this from Color of Change, who are calling for an apology and the firing of an editor. I don't think people should lose their jobs because of their racism (except when racism renders them incapable of doing their job). The wingnut politics of Rupert Murdoch's New York Post are well known; I think it's good when they expose themselves for the fascists that they are.
But for anyone who thinks Obama's election proved the end of racism in the US, here's Exhibit A.