A recent political cartoon depicting President Barack Obama as a 1970s pimp while standing next to Georgetown student Sandra Fluke, recently called a "prostitute" by Rush Limbaugh after testifying before a congressional committee in favor of mandated health coverage for contraception, has attracted a flurry of attention on the Internet.
The cartoon, drawn by editorial cartoonist Mike Lester, hit the Internet on March 4, almost immediately spurring responses from supporters and critics. It shows President Obama dressed as a pimp equipped with a large cane, wide-brimmed hat, and fur lapel jacket.
Georgetown student Sandra Fluke sits next to Obama in the cartoon. There are two voice bubbles coming from Obama's mouth, one of which reads: "She wants to have recreational sex and you to pay for it."
The other voice bubble reads: "It's not exactly a new concept."
Many critics of the cartoon argue that Obama's pimp-like garb insinuates that Fluke is a prostitute, and the comment "it's not exactly a new concept" is a classic reference to prostitution being the oldest profession in history.
The cartoon echoes the recent uproar over conservative talk show host Rush Limbaugh's comments regarding Fluke, who on Feb. 23 testified during a hearing before the House Democratic Steering and Policy Committee on Capitol Hill.
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Fluke expressed her opinion on why she feels religious-affiliated institutions should offer contraception coverage for students and employees.
Limbaugh then called Fluke a "slut" and a "prostitute" on his talk show, "The Rush Limbaugh Show," in reference to her congressional testimony. He later apologized, saying his "choice of words was not the best." According to The Atlantic Wire, Limbaugh made these comments on Feb. 29 and March 1.
Many political bloggers and commentators have taken to the Internet to express their opinion regarding the Obama "pimp" political cartoon.
Bill Schmalfeldt, journalist for the Baltimore Liberal Examiner, argues that not only does the cartoon demean Fluke by implying she is a prostitute, but it also is racist by comparing Obama to a 1970s pimp.
"[Lester] blew every dog-whistle on his racist keychain with this an offensively racist political cartoon," writes Schmalfeldt.
Others, however, argue that Limbaugh and Lester have a right to express their political opinions. Liberal political pundits, such as Bill Maher, often times make offensive comments and do not receive nearly the same amount of flack as Limbaugh has in the past week.
"As much as [Democrats] keep trying to make this about contraception (which is supported by EVERY current GOP candidate), the actual issue is whether freedom of religion still exists in this country. Don't like freedom of religion? Fine – then the issue is whether or not the Constitution still applies to Barack Obama and Obamacare," commented one user on Gocomics.com, which posted Lester's cartoon on March 4.
"That's a very important issue, no matter how much the Left tries to trivialize it. Well done, Mr. Lester!" the commenter added.
The issue goes far deeper than Limbaugh's comments or even Fluke's testimony. Rather, it relates to the intense political debate over Obama's birth control mandate, a fixture of his Obamacare health plan. The mandate requires employers to provide their employees with insurance coverage for contraceptives.
Many argue that the birth control mandate is a violation of religious freedom, as it does not allow religious institutions, whether they are universities or places of employment, the opportunity to deny contraceptive coverage, even though it opposes their religious beliefs.
Many argue that this is a violation of the U.S. Constitution's First Amendment, which promises freedom of religion for all U.S. citizens.
Lester is a conservative editorial cartoonist for Georgia's Rome News Tribune, as well as an artist and children's book illustrator.