Thursday, October 02, 2014
The Boston Herald ran a cartoon of Obama brushing his teeth and an intruder washing in the bathtub. The image was a jab at the Secret Service for letting an intruder into the White House. The words in the balloon, however, inadvertently exposed the Herald to politically correct criticism. The intruder asks if Obama is using the new watermelon-flavored toothpaste. The editor said she didn't catch the reference to watermelon and the cartoonist himself said he was referring to a flavored toothpaste he had heard about. Neither took blame for making a racist remark. What this exposes is the need for multiple eyes on copy to look for words that can offend. Newspapers particularly should be careful but every copywriter of public material needs a sensitivity to words so they don't offend. Political correctness can go too far, and there is a time when one can say enough and move ahead. However, in a situation like this, it would have made little difference if the toothpaste tasted like cucumber. I'm sure the cartoonist is mortified, as is the editor. Inadvertent bumbles happen. One can only pick up and move on.