The illustration was printed in The Australian, one of the country’s only two nationally distributed daily newspapers. The cartoon, which imagines Biden giving a missive to heal America’s racial divisions, depicts him deferring to Harris and saying, “I’ll hand you over to this little brown girl while I go for a lie-down.” The conservative News Corp-owned paper defended its decision to publish it after it drew outcry online.
National politicians Andrew Giles, Mark Dreyfus and Andrew Leigh, all members of the left-leaning Australian Labor Party, denounced its publication.
“Racism has no place in Australian public life. The Australian should pull today’s offensive cartoon off their website, and issue an immediate apology,” Leigh said in a tweet.
Dreyfus said the newspaper should apologise immediately and never publish anything similar if it has “any respect for decency and standards.”
And Tim Soutphommasane, the former race discrimination commissioner at the Australian Human Rights Commission, said commentary of this type “diminishes our society.”
“In the past I’ve described this newspaper as a poor man’s Breitbart. It indulges racism, and uses it as part of its business model,” he tweeted.
The cartoonist, Johannes Leak, has previously sparked outcry for his offensive illustrations, including a cartoon published in The Australian last November that showed a refugee family in a bushfire-ravaged town saying it “feels just like home.” His father, Bill Leak, a former cartoonist for the same paper, was repeatedly called out for producing inflammatory and racist content.
In a statement to HuffPost, The Australian Editor in Chief Christopher Dore said:
“The words “little black and brown girls” belong to US presidential candidate Joe Biden, not Johannes Leak. When Johannes used those words, expressed in a tweet by Biden yesterday, he was highlighting Biden’s language and apparent attitudes, not his own. The intention of the commentary in the cartoon was to ridicule racism, not perpetuate it. In the context of Biden’s words, this is evident. Clearly some, including those without that context, have wrongly attributed Biden’s words to Johannes, and in doing so have attributed abhorrent and inaccurate motives to him. The Australian, and Johannes, opposes racism in all of its guises.”
These are the words in Biden’s tweet:
Dore had no further response when it was pointed out that the words in the cartoon were entirely different from Biden’s words ― which referred to children of color uplifted by Harris’s achievement, not to the senator from California herself.
News Corp publications in Australia have come under fire similarly in the past. In 2018, Melbourne newspaper Herald Sun published a cartoon of tennis champion Serena Williams that sparked outrage in Australia and from civil rights leaders and others in the US and abroad.
News Corp did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.