Primate in Chief: A Guide to Racist Obama Monkey Photoshops

by Abe Sauer

People are outraged — outraged! — that a senior GOP official from Orange County, CA sent an email about Barack Obama that questioned his place of birth. But we’ve all become so numb to the “birther” conspiracies that the outrage wasn’t at all about the absurdity of a party official confronting the president of the United States about some conspiracy theory. The outrage was about an attached photo, depicting Obama as an ape.

Anyone who has been on the real Internet knows that the Obama-as-ape Photoshop actually predates the mainstream talk about his birth certificate. How prevalent is it? Very. Here’s a collection of artwork depicting the nation’s first-ever African American president as a primate, which builds on a long history of various racist Obama caricatures.

This green t-shirt is sold as the “Obama Chimp T-Shirt” with keywords “Barack Obama, 2008, 08, jefferson’s theme t-shirt, yes we did t-shirt, t-shirt, barack obama stickers, funny democrat hats, college humor republican t-shirts.”

And yes, there is a “Obama Chimp Baby Onesie” version.

The primate entry in a larger gallery of Obama art.

“Chimpout” is a notorious white supremacist site with a robust collection of images like the two above, which happen to be more reserved compared to others. Of course, the “Obamas as primates apes” theme and the fundamental (and admitted) racism of the site is a coincidence.

Update: Chimpout wanted to let people know more about their site. It is…

not a white supremacist website. We accept membership from Asians, Hispanics, Anglo, Indians, Arabs, Jews etc… We have a diverse membership and even our administration multi-racial. The purpose of is to expose the huge disproportionate amount of black crime including rape and murder in relation to the percentage of population.

We do not allow violent rhetoric, Nazi propaganda or other white nationalist garbage on our site.

We exist only to report the huge numbers of black crimes that get swept under the carpet by the mainstream media.

We do of course have our jokes and photo-shops but they are just for amusement. We really think much too highly of apes than to seriously compare them to blacks.

So there you go.

This Planet of the Apes spoof courtesy of Stormfront, the “white pride world wide” forum which counts a good many tea party advocates among its members.

Some of the Obama-as-ape shirts get pulled from online custom apparel sites like Zazzle, but not this one.

And it was less than a year ago that Glenn Beck said, “What planet have I landed on? Did I slip through a wormhole in the middle of the night and this looks like America? It’s like the damn Planet of the Apes!”

When confronted, the Orange County GOP official insisted the image was not at all racist. There exists a rich vein on the Internet of conservative blog posts that don’t seem to understand at all why comparing Barack Obama to a primate is racist, while comparing George Bush to one is not racist. This is a conversation that is still going on.

See, when Bush was president, apparently some upset person or people created a wealth of George W. Bush monkey Photoshops. The argument from many on the right here is that because of this, a hundred years of racist sentiment comparing Africans and African Americans to primates apes is negated.

And then… no, wait, that’s the whole argument.

The Louvre of Obama Photoshop, The People’s Cube, “proved” this reverse racism not long ago when it created identical president shirts likening Bush and Obama to a monkey. One was banned and one was not.

That the Obama one was deemed racist by CafePress and Zazzle, and the Bush one was not, proves racism regarding Obama doesn’t exist and everyone who says so is a hypocrite.

A perfect example of the argument in action is the post accompanying the above “Primate in Chief” image. It’s the kind of reasoning commonly employed in the online political debate, maybe best represented by Andrew Breitbart’s declaration that no racism existed during the health care debate protests because there is no video of anyone using the “n” word, even after he offered a $100,000 bounty. (It’s the kind of “reasoning” that nobody would accept as disproof of Jesus, but, digression.)

The Orange County GOP official’s answer about why she sent the image proves just how mainstream this sentiment about the hypocrisy over “monkey” racism is: “In no way did I even consider the fact he’s half black when I sent out the email. In fact, the thought never entered my mind until one or two other people tried to make this about race. We all know a double standard applies regarding this president. “

Yes, “a double standard” about all the ignored racism against all the white politicians over all the years.

Of course, the more “sensible” conservative media is spinning this as (another) case of one bad apple serving to “reignite baseless charges that any criticism directed at the president by the right is a function of racism” and give the otherwise not-at-all racist Tea Party a bad name.

The only surprise in this news about the ape photo finding its way to Obama’s inbox is that it has not already happened 10,000 times. Then again, it probably has.

For the record, homophobic emails by GOP leaders are still totally acceptable.

Abe Sauer can be reached at abesauer at gmail dot com.