News Corp.’s Times of London runs offensive cartoon featuring starving children pondering hacking scandal

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News Corp. properties such as the Wall Street Journal and Fox News have taken some heat--rightly and wrongly--for their coverage (or lackthereof) of the phone-hacking scandal that's engulfed the company's top executives over the last two weeks. The consensus in several Murdoch holdings--evidenced on the Journal's editorial page, "Fox & Friends" and other outlets--is that News Corp. is somehow the victim of a vengeful media piling on, and that there are bigger stories on which to focus. Apart from the clear commercial self-interest bound up with such protests, these sentiments are not entirely misplaced.

But the above cartoon, published Thursday by News Corp.-owned Times of London, oversteps all sorts of bounds of propriety and ethical proportion--to say nothing of taste.

"There are several methods of dealing with a much-publicized scandal, some less advisable than others," Mediaite's Alex Alvarez wrote. "Issuing a public apology for mistakes or poor judgment? Pretty much always a good idea. Holding individuals responsible for their roles and dealing with them accordingly? Usually works out pretty well. Publishing a tacky, potentially offensive cartoon making light of serious allegations AND life-threatening poverty? Oddly enough, that rarely ever works."

It's worth noting that the cartoon--picked up by Mediaite and, now, The Cutline--was originally pointed out by Emma Keller, the wife of New York Times executive editor Bill Keller and Vanity Fair contributor, on Twitter.

"Anyone else wondering if this cartoon from today's London Times is part of the Edelman strategy?" Emma, the Wendi to Bill's Rupert, quipped, referencing the high-priced London PR firm of the same name.

If so, one might gently suggest that the strategy is the equivalent of a self-administered shaving-foam pie to the face.

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