"Little brown girl": Australian Biden-Harris cartoon sparks furore

(Editor’s note: contains references that some readers may find offensive)

MELBOURNE, Aug 14 (Reuters) – A cartoon in Australia’s biggest national newspaper drew condemnation on Friday as being racist for portraying U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden describing his new running mate, Kamala Harris, as “this little brown girl.”

The cartoon by Johannes Leak in Rupert Murdoch’s The Australian newspaper, known for its conservative views, depicted a beaming Biden saying Harris, the first Black woman on a major-party national ticket, would help “heal a nation divided by racism” while he went “for a lie-down.”

“It’s offensive and racist,” Andrew Giles, an Australian Labor politician and shadow cabinet minister, said on Twitter.

Former attorney-general Mark Dreyfus tweeted, “If The Australian has any respect for decency and standards it must apologize immediately, and never again publish cartoons like this.”

But The Australian’s editor-in-chief, Christopher Dore, stood by the cartoon, saying Leak was mocking Biden’s own words.

“The words ‘little black and brown girls’ belong to Joe Biden, not Johannes, and were uttered by the presidential candidate when he named Kamala Harris as his running mate yesterday; he repeated them in a tweet soon after,” Dore said in a note to the newspaper’s staff, provided to Reuters by Murdoch’s News Corp.

Biden had tweeted on Thursday, regarding his choice of Harris as his vice presidential candidate: “This morning, little girls woke up across this nation — especially Black and Brown girls who so often may feel overlooked and undervalued in our society — potentially seeing themselves in a new way: As the stuff of Presidents and Vice Presidents.”

Dore said, “The intention of Johannes’s commentary was to ridicule identity politics and demean racism, not perpetuate it.”

Leak did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

Another Murdoch publication in Australia faced condemnation in 2018 over a cartoon of tennis star Serena Williams having a temper tantrum at the U.S. Open.

Fans, celebrities and civil rights groups called the caricature racist, but Australia’s media watchdog last year ruled that cartoon was not racist.

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(Reporting by Sonali Paul; Editing by William Mallard)

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