Governor Augustus Jaspert has condemned local news website Virgin Islands News Online’s (VINO) controversial cartoon with him kneeling on the neck of radio talkshow host Claude Skelton Cline.
He has also denounced Skelton Cline’s June 9 statements that led to the website making the cartoon in the first place.
In a statement on Tuesday morning, June 16, Governor Jaspert said he was made aware of the cartoon and comments by Skelton Cline today and “was appalled and disturbed by what they depicted and insinuated”.
“It is grossly offensive and unacceptable to use George Floyd’s tragic death in this way. Freedom of speech is an important and vital principle of our society. The media carries a responsibility to ensure that principle is not abused or operates outside the bounds of decency,” the governor said.
The governor also used the opportunity to denounce any statements or acts of racism.
He said: “The horrific death of George Floyd in the United States has moved us all and sent shockwaves around the world. There should be no place for racism in any society, and I actively stand with those who oppose racism, and who are highlighting injustice and prejudice in the aftermath of the tragic death of George Floyd. I hope we can come together as a community to say no to racism in any form.”
VINO responds to backlash with insults
The news website’s cartoon sparked widespread public outrage on social media on Monday with several several residents and public figures calling for VINO to remove the post.
But since the public backlash, the Julian Willock-owned website has given strong indications that it has no intentions of removing the cartoon.
In a statement amid the public citicism on Monday, management of the website sought to insult persons who have publicly condemned the cartoon. It dismissed those persons as attention-seekers — some or all of whom VINO suggested are harbouring feelings of ‘white guilt’.
“It’s head-shaking that some locals with dubious characters, like a former teacher and political aspirant with a shady past, now seeking attention, will use this cartoon to seek political points. Their lack of moral qualities have preceded them, so, therefore, no one is taking them seriously, particularly, the good people of District 3. To our surprise, a failed civil servant professing to be a Christian, who was given an opportunity to run an important government department where she treated her workers and some members of the public with disdain and insensitivity and was chased out of the Department because of her incompetence, had the audacity to call business persons and go on social media asking advertisers to not support the news site,” VINO said.
Website denies racism, distances Speaker from cartoon
Management of the site also sought to distance House of Assembly Speaker Willock from the cartoon, adding that VINO rejects acts of racism. The website said it was not trying to “downplay the seriousness” of the global ‘Black Lives Matter’ protests that have been happening since the May 25 killing of 46-year-old African-American, George Floyd.
VINO’s cartoon was inspired by the controversial circumstances surrounding Floyd’s death. He was killed on the streets of Minneapolis, USA when a caucasian police officer kneeled on his neck for just under 9 minutes.
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