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Boston Herald apologizes for Obama "watermelon toothpaste" cartoon

BOSTON - The Boston Herald issued an apology Wednesday for a political cartoon mocking President Obama and the Secret Service security failures, reports CBS Boston.

The cartoon shows the president brushing his teeth in a White House bathroom with a surprised look on his face as a white man sits in the bathtub behind him, asking Mr. Obama, "Have you tried the new watermelon flavored toothpaste?"

The caption reads, "White House Invader Got Farther Than Originally Thought."

"As Jerry Holbert discussed on Boston Herald Radio this morning, his cartoon satirizing the U.S. Secret Service breach at the White House has offended some people and to them we apologize,"a statement from the newspaper read. "His choice of imagery was absolutely not meant to be hurtful."

"We stand by Jerry, who is a veteran cartoonist with the utmost integrity."

Speaking with Boston Herald Radio on Wednesday, Holbert also offered an apology.

"I had no intention at all of offending anybody,"he said. "I thought this was a very lighthearted cartoon, just suggesting that the guy got as far as the bathtub and he's recommending a different toothpaste for the president."

Holbert said he was contacted by the syndicator of the cartoon Tuesday night, asking if he could change the flavor from watermelon to raspberry.

"They said there's a racial element to it, and I disagreed to be honest with you, but I did it anyway because that's what they were asking for,"Holbert said, adding that he regretted not calling The Herald to let them know about the syndicate's objection.

"I didn't think people would think that way,"he said. "Obviously that was very naive on my part, that was stupid on my part."

As for why he chose watermelon in the first place, Holbert said it was a flavor he found in a kids' toothpaste tube in his home.

"I myself love watermelon and I thought that would be a great one," he said. "I was completely naive or innocent toward any racial suggestion, I wasn't even thinking along those lines at all."

Sue Roush, the managing editor of gocomics.com, told CBS Boston, the Holbert cartoon "was reviewed by an editor here, as all our content is, before being sent to syndication clients and posted on our GoComics website."

"The editor suggested to Jerry that the use of watermelon as a toothpaste flavor could inject a racial subtext that would distract from the point of the cartoon," she said. "Jerry agreed and happily replaced it with raspberry."

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