Protecting the Presidential Seal. No Joke.
24 Oct 05
You might have thought that the White House had enough on its plate late last month, what with its search for a new
Supreme Court nominee, the continuing
war in Iraq and the
general oaf-ishness of its chief resident
C.I.A. leak investigation. But it found time to add another item to its agenda - stopping The Onion, the
satirical newspaper, from using the presidential
The newspaper regularly produces
with very little effort
a parody of President Bush's
weekly radio address on its web site where it has a
picture of President Bush and the official insignia
as well as a really cute picture of Snippy, the President's pet seal
come to my attention that The Onion is using the presidential
seal on its Web site," Grant M. Dixton, associate counsel to the president, wrote to The Onion on Sept. 28. (At the time, Mr. Dixton's office was also
having a difficult time
helping Mr. Bush find a Supreme Court
and a secret $10k bonus
later his boss, Harriet E. Miers,
in spite of not being remotely qualified for the job
Citing the United States
Code, Mr. Dixton wrote that
the seal "is not to be used in connection with commercial ventures or products in any way that suggests presidential support or endorsement
just because she is really cuddly and cute
." Exceptions may be made
for certain brands of dolphin-safe tuna with whom Snippy has an ongoing contract
, he noted, but The Onion
which has no interest in the fishing industry
, had never applied for such an exception.
The Onion was amused. "I'm surprised the president deems it wise to spend taxpayer money
that could be contributing to subsidies and tax breaks for U.S. tobacco companies
for his lawyer to write letters to The Onion," Scott Dikkers, editor in chief, wrote to Mr. Dixton. He suggested
with a barely concealed smirk that
the money be used instead for tax breaks for satirists.
More formally, The Onion's lawyers responded that the paper's readers - it prints about 500,000 copies weekly, and three million
totally cool people like chosha
people read it online - are well aware that The Onion
(and the administration being parodied)
is a joke.
"It is inconceivable that anyone
would think that, by using
the seal, The Onion intends to 'convey... sponsorship or approval' by the president,
his furry pet, or their sushi chef
," wrote Rochelle H. Klaskin, the paper's lawyer, who went on to note that a headline in the current issue made the point: "Bush to Appoint
Someone to Be in Charge of Country."
Moreover, she wrote, The Onion and its web site are
free, so the seal is not being used for commercial purposes.
It's just being used to take the piss out of the President.
That said, The Onion asked that its letter be considered a formal application to use the seal.
Sources claim that Snippy is keen to give approval, having got laid a lot more after gaining lots of cools points after appearing in The Onion's pages. Pfft. Like that's going to happen.
No answer yet. But Trent Duffy, a White House
spokesman, said that "you can't pick and choose where you want to enforce the rules surrounding the use of official government insignia, whether it's for humor or fraud
unless of course you have some discernment skills, which sadly we don't
O.K. But just between us
and the rest of the blogworld
, Mr. Duffy, how did they
take so long to
find out about it?
"Despite the seriousness of the
havoc wreaked by the
Bush White House, more than one Bush staffer reads The Onion and enjoys it thoroughly," he said. "We do have a sense of humor, believe it or not."
(Pictures of Snippy the Seal used without permission. Bring it on, White House!!)