The Guardian apologizes after being accused of ‘shocking’ anti-Semitism after cartoon of ex-BBC chairman Richard Sharp that ‘contained Jewish stereotypes’
The left-wing Guardian newspaper was accused of ‘shocking’ anti-Semitism last night after publishing an insulting cartoon by ex-BBC chairman Richard Sharp that featured Jewish stereotypes.
Martin Rowson’s controversial image showed a smirking caricature of Sharp, who is Jewish, with what pundits described as a series of anti-Semitic tropes.
Sharp dramatically stepped down as BBC chairman on Friday after a report found he had broken rules by not disclosing his role in helping Boris Johnson secure an £800,000 loan.
The cartoon, published yesterday, depicted the former Goldman Sachs banker carrying a box from the bank filled with a squid and what appeared to be gold coins.
Stephen Pollard, former editor of the Jewish Chronicle, described the illustration as “unequivocally anti-Semitic,” adding, “It takes a lot to shock me. But I still think it’s really shocking that no one looked at it and said, ‘No, we can’t run this.’
The left-wing Guardian newspaper was accused of ‘shocking’ anti-Semitism last night after publishing an insulting cartoon by ex-BBC chairman Richard Sharp featuring Jewish stereotypes
Boris Johnson proposed last night that those responsible at The Guardian for publishing the image resign. “Frankly, whoever ordered and printed this made a much bigger mistake than Richard Sharp,” he said. “They should take his lead.”
Award-winning screenwriter Lee Kern wrote on Twitter: “The Guardian is anti-Semitic. If a newspaper can be institutionally racist, they are.’
While the squid appeared to be a reference to Goldman Sachs — once described by Rolling Stone magazine as “a big vampire squid” — it’s also a “common anti-Semitic motif” used to portray a supposed Jewish conspiracy, according to Dave Rich, an author specializing in anti-Semitism.
He added, “You could say that outsized facial features and tentacles happen in other subjects too, so it’s just a cartoon thing. Unless something has a long and well-known anti-Semitic history, it takes on a different meaning when you apply it to Jews.’
Critics also highlighted that the cartoon appeared to feature a bloodied pig’s head and depicted Rishi Sunak as a puppet. Alex Hearn, co-director of Labor Against Anti-Semitism, said: ‘It is extraordinary that so many classic anti-Jewish motifs have been squeezed into one cartoon without the Guardian’s editors objecting.’
Richard Sharp steps down as BBC chairman and leaves at the end of June
In a 1,000-word statement, Rowson said he knew Sharp was Jewish because they both attended the fee-paying Merchant Taylors school in north London, but stressed that Sharp’s Jewishness “never crossed my mind when I drew him.” “I tried to draw him looking quietly furious, implicitly with Johnson, in the standard caricature fashion common in all political cartoons to exaggerate several of his features.
“I thought it was a pretty mild caricature at the time compared to how I’d draw Johnson.”
He denied that the box in the cartoon was filled with gold—he claimed the coins were actually the squid’s “yellow polyps”—and that the pig’s red color meant licorice, not blood.
A spokesperson for The Guardian said yesterday: ‘We understand the concerns that have been raised. This cartoon does not meet our editorial standards and we have decided to remove it from our website.
“The Guardian apologizes to Mr Sharp, to the Jewish community and to anyone who has been offended.”
The latest controversy comes just a week after The Observer – The Guardian’s sister paper – published a letter from former Labor Shadow minister Diane Abbott suggesting that Jewish, Irish and Travelers had not been victims of racism ‘all their lives’.
She was suspended as a Labor MP and party leader Sir Keir Starmer described her comments as anti-Semitic.