‘Watch it, Sucka!’ Comparing Obama, First Lady to Sanford & Son is Satire?
May 6, 2010
(ChattahBox)—The publisher of a weekly New York newspaper believes it’s funny and satirical to portray President Obama and First Lady Michelle, as characters from the 70s sitcom Sanford & Son. However, few readers of Long Island’s Smithtown Messenger share the same humor, as its publisher Phillip Sciarello. He is being condemned for employing offensive racial stereotypes. And he wants everyone to know that he is sorry for “anyone who MIGHT have been offended.”
The photo comparison “was intended as political satire and not a racist commentary,” the publisher said. Sciarello “defended the decision to publish the photo, but added the newspaper would run a retraction in its next edition for anyone who might have been offended.”
Sciarello created a photo page showing before and after” images of the last six presidents and their wives, beginning with Jimmy Carter and his wife Rosalynn. The “after” photos depict the presidential couples, as older and graying. But Sciarello inserted an image from Sanford & Son for the Obama’s “after” photo. Why? Because he claims he was employing “political satire.” But none of the white presidential couples were similarly satirized.
The image selected shows the always squabbling black characters Fred Sanford and Aunt Esther, played by actors Redd Foxx and LaWanda Page. Esther is shown clenching her fists, readying to hit Sanford.
For the record, the character of Fred Sanford is described, as a “sarcastic, stubborn, and argumentative antiques and junk dealer, whose frequent money-making schemes routinely backfired and created more troubles.” He was uneducated and the last episode centered around Sanford finally obtaining his High School diploma.
The always-combative, bible-thumping and humorless character of Aunt Esther played the comedic foil to Sanford’s constant insults, frequently uttering her catch phrase: “Watch it, sucka.” Esther was always armed with an oversize handbag, ready to wallop Sanford and anyone else who got in her way.
Do you see any satirical comparisons between these two television characters and President Obama and his wife? Both Obamas are accomplished individuals and are graduates of Harvard Law School.
The definition of satire by Merriam-Webster’s dictionary: “trenchant wit, irony, or sarcasm used to expose and discredit vice or folly”
What particular vice or folly of the Obamas was Sciarello trying to expose with his photo display? The only trait the Obamas share with the characters from Sanford & Son is one of race, no matter how much Sciarello says otherwise. And everyone knows it.
Black leaders have weighed in on the controversy and are outraged. Hazel N. Dukes, president of the state NAACP conference, said “It is simply shocking and outrageous that such a blatantly racist ad would run in any paper, much less an official paper of Suffolk County,” Dukes said. “New Yorkers of all races and ethnicity are disgusted by it and reject it.”
And besides criticism, there have been financial consequences. “The controversy prompted the Brookhaven town board to remove one of the Messenger’s sister publications, the Brookhaven Review, as an official newspaper, meaning it will no longer publish town government legal notices.”
Satire? I think not Mr. Sciarello.