AJR  The Beat
From AJR,   April 1999

Cover Me   

New Yorker cover sparks controversy as it depicts a police officer taking shots at everyday citizen-shaped targets.

By Lori Robertson
Lori Robertson (robertson.lori@gmail.com), a former AJR managing editor, is a senior contributing writer for the magazine.      

If the police shooting of an unarmed immigrant in New York wasn't enough to stir controversy, how about a provocative New Yorker cover of a police officer taking shots at everyday citizen-shaped targets? The March 8 cartoon cover, drawn by Art Spiegelman, elicited outrage from New York police and a protest by about 200 off-duty police officers in front of the magazine's headquarters. James Savage, president of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, the police union, told the Associated Press, "It's a totally irresponsible depiction of the police, especially the ones waiting to go before the grand jury." Spiegelman--winner of a 1992 Pulitzer for "Maus," a haunting cartoon account of the Holocaust--pitched the cover idea to New Yorker Editor David Remnick, who told him to go for it, says Perri Dorset, the magazine's director of public relations. The cover, which pictures an NYPD officer aiming at human cut-outs at a carnival shooting gallery, was prompted by the February 4 killing of Amadou Diallo in his apartment building by four officers. They fired 41 shots, hitting Diallo with 19 of them. The police have asked for an apology for the cover; the New Yorker isn't giving one. "Art Spiegelman's cover, like all effective political art, uses exaggeration and caricature to make its point and push forward a debate," Remnick said in a statement. "The cover was meant to spark that debate, not insult." Meanwhile, Savage calls for a boycott as well as subscription cancellations of The New Yorker and 13 other Condé Nast publications.