NYT's Artistic Display of Religious Hypocrisy: Runs Offensive Virgin Mary Painting Once Again

The New York Times' hypocrisy regarding displays of "offensive" religious imagery runs unabated, as shown in a Scott Reyburn article in Friday's Arts section on the sale of Chris Ofili's controversial painting "The Holy Virgin Mary," which shows the Virgin Mary clotted with elephant dung against a porn-collage background -- and accompanied by a photograph of the offensive work.

Yet when the paper refused to reprint a cartoon of Muhammad that appeared in the Paris satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo that resulted in the January 2015 massacre of 12 magazine staffers, it offered this smug, cowardly justification:

Under Times standards, we do not normally publish images or other material deliberately intended to offend religious sensibilities. After careful consideration, Times editors decided that describing the cartoons in question would give readers sufficient information to understand today’s story.

Not fear of violent reprisal, but fear of "causing offense." So why does Ofili's dung-clotted Virgin Mary get a pass?

As noted before, the Times isn't afraid to run all religiously offensive images. The paper has in the past run approving pictures of Ofili's painting, which caused controversy when it hung in the Brooklyn Museum in 1999 during the term of NYC Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who protested. On Friday, ignoring its previous self-righteous comments on not offending "religious sensibilities" when it comes to Muhammad, the Times once again ran a photo of the Virgin Mary.

Reyburn wrote:

The Australian collector David Walsh is selling Chris Ofili’s 1996 painting “The Holy Virgin Mary,” which caused a furor when it was shown at the Brooklyn Museum in October 1999 as part of Charles Saatchi’s touring “Sensation” exhibition of works by Young British Artists (YBAs).

The eight-foot-high depiction of a black Virgin Mary, encrusted with a lump of elephant dung and collaged bottoms from pornographic magazines, outraged religious leaders and Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani, who described Mr. Ofili’s painting and other works in the show as “sick stuff.” Mr. Giuliani’s attempts to close the exhibition by withholding public funds were rejected by a federal judge....

Clay Waters
Clay Waters
Clay Waters was director of Times Watch, a former project of the Media Research Center.