An animated New York Times cartoon depicting U.S. President Donald Trump in a romantic relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin provoked outrage on Monday from critics who said the depiction was homophobic.
The Times published the roughly minute-long video the morning that Trump and Putin had a face-to-face meeting in Finland before giving a joint news conference that largely downplayed Russian interference in the 2016 election.
The animation shows Trump and Putin going on a date, riding shirtless on a unicorn through the sky, kissing and writhing their tongues together while real audio of Trump speaking positively about Putin plays in the background.
“I think he’s done a very brilliant and amazing job,” Trump can be heard saying while an animated Trump hands his heart to Putin.
Many viewers denounced the video for using homosexuality as a punchline.
“What is so remarkable about this short animation is that it relies entirely upon the premise of homophobia in order to make an impact,” wrote HuffPost’s James Michael Nichols, who has criticized homophobic Trump-Putin art in the past, on Monday. “There is no larger message, no big-picture takeaway. Just the supposed humor embedded within the idea that tenderness between two men is in some way mockable.”
That was not the intention of contributor Bill Plympton’s cartoon, a Times spokesperson told HuffPost Monday night.
“The video is not meant to be homophobic,” the statement said, in part. “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.”
Still, many said the cartoon had other implications.
This article has been updated with comment from The New York Times.