Early Monday, it appeared that a Barack Obama sock monkey created by a West Jordan couple and criticized as racially offensive was never actually going to be distributed. Both the contracted manufacturer, Binkley Toys Inc., and TheSockObama LLC apologized and claimed on their respective Web sites that it would not be manufactured.
"We are very apologetic to all who were upset by our toy idea," an apology appearing on TheSockObama company's Web site says. "We will not be proceeding with the manufacturing of this toy. Thank you."
Binkley Toys, who had been involved in prototyping the doll as a "work for hire" manufacturer, also posted an apology from owner Rob Bishop not to be confused with the Utah congressman of the same name and said they were not going manufacture the monkey.
Bishop said in his apology that he hadn't initially made the "racist connection." He was also initially surprised by the outcry, "but when viewing the toy again, I could see how people could make the connection."
But Monday afternoon, the creators, David and Elizabeth Lawson, told the Deseret News that "a few new opportunities have been presented" for the production of the monkey. They also issued a long news release that defended the monkey as a victim of double standards and unfair censorship.
Last week, TheSockObama LLC Web site led to a barrage of bloggers' criticism of the racial undertones of depicting Obama as a monkey. The undertones date to Jim Crow, when blacks were compared to monkeys in efforts to frame them as a lesser race.
"It's okay for there to be hundreds of thousands of Google sites containing references to our current president's resemblance to a chimpanzee," the Lawsons' statement said. "However, it's not okay to make that same association regarding our possible next president."
The Lawsons said, in the statement, they were forced to shut down after only seven days, and are issuing refunds to those who have ordered the sock monkeys after "blogging dens of resistance quickly began their fury of e-mails," many of which were threatening.
"Having led a moderately quiet lifestyle until now; our social calendar suddenly filled up with vivid and creative death threats," the statement said. "And last we heard, a posse of bloggers from back east are on their way over to conduct how did they phrase it, a good ol' fashioned KKK house burning party at David & Elizabeth's. Kinda exciting stuff, but this in America?"
Last week, the company had defended its product in a response to New York Magazine, saying TheSockObama doll wasn't meant to offend anyone.
"It is not, nor has it ever been our objective to hurt, dismay or anger anyone," that letter said in part.
Jeanetta Williams, president of the Salt Lake branch of the NAACP, credited public outcry with halting the production of the monkey, which she had last week called "pure racism at its extreme."
"People in general found it to be very offensive," Williams said. "Bringing it to the forefront made people aware these kinds of things are going on."
Misty Fowler, chairwoman of Utah for Obama, said she was pleased with the decision to pull the product and issue an apology."I really think this has been a useless distraction from the real issues. I also think Utahns are much more affected by Obama's economic policy than some ill-conceived idea for a toy," Fowler said. "I'm glad that this has come to an end."
Contributing: Lisa Riley Roche
E-mail: [email protected]