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NY Times Editor: Charlie Hebdo Cartoons ‘Innately Offensive’ to Muslims

The New York Times published two stories today about the latest cartoon cover of Charlie Hebdo, but still refuses to print the cartoon, saying it is needlessly offensive to Muslims.

In a story titled, “New Charlie Hebdo Cover Creates New Questions for U.S. News Media,” editor Dean Baquet says the image is “innately offensive” to Muslims.

At The Times, which republished some Charlie Hebdo cartoons in its coverage of the attack, but not the ones that mocked Islam, an editorial decision was made in its online coverage to provide a link for viewers to click should they wish to see the new Muhammad cover. But the image will not be published in the print edition.

“Actually we have republished some of the Charlie Hebdo cartoons including a caricature of the head of ISIS as well as some political cartoons,” Dean Baquet, executive editor of The Times, said in a statement. “We do not normally publish images or other material deliberately intended to offend religious sensibilities. Many Muslims consider publishing images of their prophet innately offensive and we have refrained from doing so.”

The Times‘ public editor wrote a piece last week calling the decision not to publish the cartoons a close call. But Baquet took some heat for what many observers considered a cowardly choice in the wake of the murder of 12 people by Muslim assassins. In one high profile spat, USC journalism professor Marc Cooper posted a message on his Facebook page critical of Baquet’s choice. In reply, Baquet wrote, “Dear Marc, appreciate the self righteous second guessing without even considering there might be another point of view. Hope your students are more open minded. Asshole.”

While Baquet’s explanation has been consistent, the article suggests the factors surrounding his decision have changed. Today’s article says the choice not to publish the cartoons has been “further complicated by a legitimate news reason — Charlie Hebdo’s response to the deadly assault — that would seem to justify showing precisely what the newspaper did in its response.” In lieu of displaying the image, the Times chose to link to it at a French news site.

Another story published by the Times today is focused on the potential for “reprisals” in the wake of the new cover’s publication. That article also contains a link to the cover image at the same French news site. It also contains a somewhat defensive aside which reads, “The cover of the new issue — already widely seen on the Internet — will be published on Wednesday.”

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