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Published: Wednesday, 2/25/2009

Civil rights leaders vow to pressure FCC to block Murdoch's multiple media


NEW YORK Civil rights leaders and New York City Council members Tuesday vowed to pressure the Federal Communications Commission to block New York Post owner Rupert Murdoch's ownership of multiple media outlets in the city.

The leaders, including the Rev. Al Sharpton of National Action Network, announced their plans on the same day that Murdoch, chairman of News Corp., issued an apology for the cartoon that appeared last Wednesday in the Post, the city tabloid his company owns.

Drawn by Sean Delonas, it showed two police officers, one with a smoking gun, standing over the body of a bullet-riddled chimp. The caption reads: "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."

Although Murdoch's apology was called "a good gesture" by the civil rights leaders and council members, it didn't go far enough, they said.

"The remaining question about the editorial policy of the Post is what procedures will be put in place to make sure that next time this is caught before it ever runs," said John Payton, president of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund.

Protesters had previously called for editors who allowed the cartoon to be published to be fired.

Murdoch's apology Tuesday was the second for the Post. Murdoch issued the statement on the newspaper's Web site, addressing the fallout from a cartoon many viewed as racist.

"Last week, we made a mistake," Murdoch said in the Post. "We ran a cartoon that offended many people. Today I want to personally apologize to any reader who felt offended, and even insulted."

Sharpton said he and NAACP chief executive Benjamin Jealous are scheduled to travel to Washington Wednesday to meet with the FCC about Murdoch's waiver. The waiver allows Murdoch's company to own a newspaper and a television station in the same media market.

Also on the leaders' agenda are council hearings that will seek to probe the Post's hiring practices, and an effort to get the city to stop advertising legal notices in the Post.

Chants of "Where is Bloomberg?" erupted from the crowd on the steps of City Hall. Mayor Michael Bloomberg, who was in Queens to announce a gun buyback program, spoke about Murdoch's apology when asked about it by a reporter.

"I think it was the right thing to do," Bloomberg said of Murdoch's apology.

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