Boston Herald apologizes for Obama 'watermelon' cartoon

BOSTON (Reuters) - The Boston Herald has apologized for an editorial cartoon about the recent White House security breaches featuring U.S. President Barack Obama that made a watermelon reference.

The cartoon, which appeared on Wednesday, depicted Obama brushing his teeth while an unidentified man, presumably an intruder, sits in a bathtub behind him asking, "Have you tried the new watermelon-flavored toothpaste?"

A historic U.S. racist stereotype held that black people are particularly fond of watermelons. Obama is the United States' first black president.

Cartoonist Jerry Holbert apologized for the panel, saying he had not intended to cause offense.

"I was completely naive or innocent to any racial connotations," Holbert said on an audio broadcast by the newspaper. "I wasn't thinking along those lines at all."

Herald President and Publisher Patrick J. Purcell was quoted in the newspaper saying: "We regret the reaction this cartoon elicited among many and apologize for it. Clearly, that was not Jerry’s intent and it certainly was not the intent of the Boston Herald."

The newspaper said Holbert changed the flavor of the toothpaste in the cartoon to raspberry when his national syndicate raised concerns about stereotyping but he did not notify the Herald of the change.

The cartoon was captioned "White House invader got farther than originally thought," referring to the Sept. 19 incident in which an Iraq War veteran scaled the White House fence, sprinted across the law and got deep inside the executive mansion before an off-duty agent stopped him.

The incident prompted Secret Service Director Julia Preston to resign on Wednesday.

(Reporting by Scott Malone; Editing by Bill Trott)