((JR)) — The Guardian deleted and apologized for a cartoon of outgoing BBC Chairman Richard Sharp widely criticized for channeling multiple antisemitic tropes.
The Board of Deputies of British Jews has requested a meeting with the Guardian’s editor over the cartoon. Meanwhile, the cartoonist, Martin Rowson, issued a lengthy statement in which he said, “The cartoon was a failure and on many levels: I offended the wrong people.”
On Friday, Sharp, a former banker who is Jewish, announced he was resigning in the wake of a scandal after just over two years in his BBC role. Rowson, a prominent political cartoonist, drew a dark caricature of Sharp holding a box with the label of Goldman Sachs, his former employer. Inside the box were a squid and a head with an elongated nose.
To many who viewed it, the imagery offered echoes of historical antisemitic caricatures, including those published by the Nazis, as well as references to contemporary antisemitic tropes.
“All the component parts were there: the large nose, the lips, the Fagin-like sneer, and, of course, what appears to be money. It’s a racialised depiction of a Jew,” Dave Rich, head of policy at the Community Security Trust, which advocates for British Jews and works with police on Jewish security issues, wrote Monday in a Guardian op-ed.
Rich noted that squids and other tentacled monsters often represent the antisemitic trope that Jews control the world. (George Soros, the Jewish billionaire criticized harshly on the right for his support of liberal causes, has often been depicted as an octopus or tentacled monster.)
Stephen Pollard, an editor-at-large of Britain’s Jewish Chronicle, tweeted that he found it “genuinely shocking that not a single person looked at this and said, no, we can’t run this.”
The Guardian removed the cartoon on Saturday. “We understand the concerns that have been raised,” the newspaper said in a statement shortly after taking down the image. “This cartoon does not meet our editorial standards, and we have decided to remove it from our website. The Guardian apologises to Mr Sharp, to the Jewish community and to anyone offended.”
In a lengthy statement, Rowson said Sharp’s Jewishness “never crossed my mind as I drew him” but said that “the cartoon was a failure on many levels.” Rowson has drawn criticism before for his depiction of Jewish figures.
Sharp, 67, is a Conservative Party ally and was formerly the boss of current British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak at Goldman Sachs. His resignation follows an investigation that found Sharp had not properly disclosed his role in helping Boris Johnson, Britain’s prime minister at the time, secure a loan worth close to $1 million. He also told Johnson of his plan to apply to the BBC position before he applied for it, barrister Adam Heppinstall wrote in his report.