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Publisher Rupert Murdoch, who has a long association with racist commentary, has gotten yet another pass for racism after one of his newspapers used stereotyped imagery in a cartoon of tennis superstar Serena Williams.

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The Australian Press Council on Monday cleared The Herald Sun, a Murdoch owned paper, of being racist when it published a cartoon showing Williams jumping up and down on her racket at the 2018 US Open final, CNN reported.

The cartoon referenced a dispute that Williams had with the umpire during the match. The image of Williams included large, exaggerated lips and other racist stereotypes white supremacists associated with Black people. The racist image also showed Williams’ opponent, Japan’s Naomi Osaka, as a skinny blonde woman, to whom the umpire is saying: “Can’t you just let her win?” Osaka is of mixed racial heritage: Japanese and Haitian.

Although widely condemned, the Australian media watchdog dismissed the complaints.

“(The Herald Sun) said it wanted to capture the on-court tantrum of Ms Williams using satire, caricature, exaggeration and humor, and the cartoon intended to depict her behavior as childish by showing her spitting a pacifier out while she jumps up and down,” a statement said.

However, the council is apparently a flawed source when it comes to investigating racism. It serves as a mechanism for Australia’s media to self-regulate. In a country with a reputation for racism, it’s no surprise that the council found nothing inappropriate with the cartoon. About one out of three minorities in Australia have said they’ve experienced racism at work or school.

Murdoch’s history with racist imagery includes a depiction of President Barack Obama as a monkey in a 2009 cartoon published in another of his newspapers, the New York Post. In another instance, Murdock suggested in a 2015 tweet that Obama was not a “real Black” president while praising then-Republican presidential candidate Ben Carson, who turned out to be one of Trump’s most faithful Black supporters.

At the 2018 U.S. Open, Williams was accused of breaking the sport’s rules by getting “coaching” while playing against Osaka, which made her say to the umpire, “I have never cheated in my life. I have a daughter and I stand for what is right and I have never cheated.” Williams was then issued three code violations, which ultimately equaled $17,000 in fines.

The image has been slammed for being racist. Everyone from civil rights icon the Rev. Jesse Jackson to “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling was outraged.

However, Murdoch’s newspaper doubled down in the aftermath of the controversy.

“A champion tennis player had a mega tantrum on the world stage, and Mark’s cartoon depicted that,” Herald editor Damon Johnston wrote in a statement. “It had nothing to do with gender or race. This was about a bad sport being mocked.”

But Murdoch’s record on racist commentary and images in his newspapers tell a different story.


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