The New York Times has come under fire for its cartoon depicting Donald Trump fantasizing about having a love affair with Vladimir Putin which some felt was a homophobic dig.
The Times re-posted its animation, “Trump and Putin: A Love Story,” which was originally released last month, in the wake of Trump’s meeting with Putin in Helsinki. The video, animated by Bill Plympton, uses real audio of Trump discussing Putin overlapped with a cartoon of Trump fantasizing about Putin. Trump is shown getting ready for a date with Putin who picks him up in his car. Trump places his hand on top of Putin’s and the car transforms into a unicorn. The pair fly through the sky surrounded by rainbows, flowers and butterflies. Then they kiss while Trump pinches Putin’s nipples. There’s a close-up shot of their tongues intertwined in a kiss inside their mouths. The cartoon ends to show Trump has been imagining the moment while watching TV at home with a framed portrait of a shirtless Putin on horseback hanging on the wall.
In this episode of Trump Bites, Donald Trump’s not-so-secret admiration for Vladimir Putin plays out in a teenager’s bedroom, where the fantasies of this forbidden romance come to life. https://t.co/cWeQMuzWUz pic.twitter.com/4shBRkloot
— NYT Opinion (@nytopinion) July 16, 2018
The video’s punch line seems to be that Trump and Putin having a romantic relationship would be funny. A spokesperson for the New York Times released a statement to NBC News insisting that wasn’t the case.
“The video is not meant to be homophobic,” the spokesperson says. “The filmmaker’s vision was one of teenage infatuation portrayed through a dream-like fantasy sequence. He would have used the same format to satirize Trump’s infatuation with another politician, regardless of sexuality or gender. Exaggerated kissing is a signature feature of his animated shorts, including ‘How to Kiss.'”
Regardless, some people found the joke to be distasteful and sounded off on social media.
During these trying times when the president lies to us every day and normalizes Vladimir Putin, please remember what’s important: LOL WHAT IF HE WAS GAY https://t.co/4sMyxLS67g
— Louis Virtel (@louisvirtel) July 16, 2018
“They’re FAGS!” – NYT https://t.co/rhG3TZEBCB
— Tyler Coates (@tylercoates) July 16, 2018
@nytimes this isn’t just intensely stupid, it’s homophobic as all hell. What on Earth makes you think that equating the love that countless people across the planet fight and die for to the unconscionably criminal relationship between these two is OK?! Truly, please explain. https://t.co/Cs1TYOJ4Lp
— Brian Sims (@BrianSimsPA) July 16, 2018
You’ve done it guys. You’ve saved democracy by saying Trump and Putin are gay for each other. The first 1000 times didn’t work, but your version was the final nail. You have humiliated them out of destroying democracy by saying they are like gay people. The union is safe.
— Guy Branum (@guybranum) July 16, 2018
Congrats to everyone doing gay jokes about Trump and Putin for throwing your own beliefs under the bus for a political cartoon they’ll never see
— Mike Drucker (@MikeDrucker) July 16, 2018
This is homophobic. It is implying that being gay is an insult for both of these men. It implies that being gay would emasculate them. It implies that calling them gay together would anger them and incite reaction. This is beneath us. https://t.co/Zk95DgQOpN
— Phillip Picardi (@pfpicardi) July 16, 2018
I think of the resources that went into animating this tired and offensive joke — it took 11 people to make this video. That would have been so much better spent on highlighting unsung queer heroes or even some kind of satire about how dangerous Russia is for LGBTQ folks.
— Alex Berg (@itsalexberg) July 16, 2018