Australian Biden-Harris cartoon sparks furore

A cartoon in Australia's biggest national newspaper drew condemnation on Friday as being racist for portraying US Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden describing his new running mate, Kamala Harris, as "this little brown girl".

The cartoon by Johannes Leak in Rupert Murdoch's The Australian newspaper, known for its conservative views, depicted a beaming Biden saying Harris, the first Black woman on a major-party national ticket, would help "heal a nation divided by racism" while he went "for a lie-down."

"It's offensive and racist," Andrew Giles, an Australian Labor politician and shadow cabinet minister, said on Twitter.

Former attorney-general Mark Dreyfus tweeted, "If The Australian has any respect for decency and standards it must apologize immediately, and never again publish cartoons like this."

But The Australian's editor-in-chief, Christopher Dore, stood by the cartoon, saying Leak was mocking Biden's own words.

"The words 'little black and brown girls' belong to Joe Biden, not Johannes, and were uttered by the presidential candidate when he named Kamala Harris as his running mate yesterday; he repeated them in a tweet soon after," Dore said in a note to the newspaper's staff, provided to Reuters by Murdoch's News Corp.

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WILMINGTON, DE - AUGUST 12: Sen. Kamala D. Harris (D-Calif.) smiles after being introduced by presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden as his running mate during an event at Alexis I. DuPont High School in Wilmington, Del., on Wednesday, Aug. 12, 2020. The former vice presidents historic selection makes Harris the first Black woman and first Asian American to run for vice president on a major-party ticket. (Photo by Toni L. Sandys/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WILMINGTON, DE - AUGUST 13: Presumptive Democratic vice presidential nominee, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris listens as presumptive Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden speaks following a coronavirus briefing with health experts at the Hotel DuPont on August 13, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Harris is the first Black woman and first person of Indian descent to be a presumptive nominee on a presidential ticket by a major party in U.S. history. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WILMINGTON, DE - AUGUST 13: Presumptive Democratic vice presidential nominee, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris listens as presumptive Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden speaks following a coronavirus briefing with health experts at the Hotel DuPont on August 13, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Harris is the first Black woman and first person of Indian descent to be a presumptive nominee on a presidential ticket by a major party in U.S. history. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential nominee, former US Vice President Joe Biden (R), and vice presidential running mate, US Senator Kamala Harris, hold a press conference after receiving a briefing on COVID-19 in Wilmington, Delaware, on August 13, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
WILMINGTON, DE - AUGUST 13: Presumptive Democratic vice presidential nominee, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris delivers remarks after presumptive Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden spoke following a coronavirus briefing with health experts at the Hotel DuPont on August 13, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Harris is the first Black woman and first person of Indian descent to be a presumptive nominee on a presidential ticket by a major party in U.S. history. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WILMINGTON, DE - AUGUST 13: Presumptive Democratic vice presidential nominee, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris walks to the podium after presumptive Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden spoke following a coronavirus briefing with health experts at the Hotel DuPont on August 13, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Harris is the first Black woman and first person of Indian descent to be a presumptive nominee on a presidential ticket by a major party in U.S. history. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
Democratic presidential nominee, former US Vice President Joe Biden (L), and vice presidential running mate, US Senator Kamala Harris, hold a press conference after receiving a briefing on COVID-19 in Wilmington, Delaware, on August 13, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential nominee, former US Vice President Joe Biden (L), and vice presidential running mate, US Senator Kamala Harris, depart after speaking following a COVID-19 briefing in Wilmington, Delaware on August 13, 2020. (Photo by MANDEL NGAN / AFP) (Photo by MANDEL NGAN/AFP via Getty Images)
WILMINGTON, DE - AUGUST 13: Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden (R) and his running mate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) attend a coronavirus briefing at a makeshift studio at the Hotel DuPont on August 13, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Harris is the first Black woman and first person of Indian descent to be a presumptive nominee on a presidential ticket by a major party in U.S. history. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
WILMINGTON, DE - AUGUST 13: Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA), running mate of Presumptive Democratic presidential nominee former Vice President Joe Biden, attends a coronavirus briefing at a makeshift studio at the Hotel DuPont on August 13, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Harris is the first Black woman and first person of Indian descent to be a presumptive nominee on a presidential ticket by a major party in U.S. history. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
An art enthusiast paints on a canvas the face of presumptive US Democratic Vice President nominee Kamala Harris outside a drawing school in Mumbai on August 13, 2020. (Photo by Indranil MUKHERJEE / AFP) (Photo by INDRANIL MUKHERJEE/AFP via Getty Images)
ARLINGTON, Aug. 12, 2020 -- A woman at a house in Arlington, Virginia, watches news showing U.S. presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden R, on the screen speaking at a campaign event together with Kamala Harris in Wilmington, Delaware, the United States, on Aug. 12, 2020. U.S. presumptive Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden attended Wednesday a campaign event in his hometown of Wilmington, together with Kamala Harris, his choice of Democratic vice presidential candidate, in what was the duo's first public appearance as running mates. (Photo by Liu Jie/Xinhua via Getty) (Xinhua/Liu Jie via Getty Images)
Democratic vice presidential running mate, US Senator Kamala Harris removes her mask before speaking during the first press conference with Joe Biden in Wilmington, Delaware, on August 12, 2020. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
Democratic presidential nominee and former US Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden (L) follow vice presidential running mate, US Senator Kamala Harris, and her husband Douglas Emhoff (R) after their first Biden-Harris press conference in Wilmington, Delaware, on August 12, 2020. (Photo by Olivier DOULIERY / AFP) (Photo by OLIVIER DOULIERY/AFP via Getty Images)
WILMINGTON, DE - AUGUST 12: Democratic presidential candidate former Vice President Joe Biden's running mate Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA) speaks during an event at the Alexis Dupont High School on August 12, 2020 in Wilmington, Delaware. Harris is the first Black woman and first person of Indian descent to be a presumptive nominee on a presidential ticket by a major party in U.S. history. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)
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Biden had tweeted on Thursday, regarding his choice of Harris as his vice presidential candidate: "This morning, little girls woke up across this nation -- especially Black and Brown girls who so often may feel overlooked and undervalued in our society -- potentially seeing themselves in a new way: As the stuff of Presidents and Vice Presidents."

Dore said, "The intention of Johannes' commentary was to ridicule identity politics and demean racism, not perpetuate it."

Leak did not immediately respond to an email request for comment.

Another Murdoch publication in Australia faced condemnation in 2018 over a cartoon of tennis star Serena Williams having a temper tantrum at the US Open.

Fans, celebrities and civil rights groups called the caricature racist, but Australia's media watchdog last year ruled that cartoon was not racist.

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