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'Racist' Businessweek cover triggers uproar

Bloomberg Businessweek editor Josh Tyrangiel has said the magazine "regrets" what critics have described as a "super-racist" cover on the latest issue.
Credit: Bloomberg Businessweek
Credit: Bloomberg Businessweek

Bloomberg Businessweek editor Josh Tyrangiel has said the magazine "regrets" what critics have described as a "super-racist" cover on the latest issue.

"Our cover illustration last week got strong reactions, which we regret," he said in a statement sent to Politico's Dylan Byers and NBC Latino. "Our intention was not to incite or offend. If we had to do it over again we'd do it differently."

The cover seemed to depict ethnic minorities rollicking in cash from a rebounding housing market. The subtitle for the cover story asked the question, "What could possibly go wrong?"

"The cover stands out for its cast of black and Hispanic caricatures with exaggerated features reminiscent of early 20th century race cartoons. Also, because there are only people of color in it, grabbing greedily for cash," wrote the Columbia Journalism Review's Ryan Chittum. "It’s hard to imagine how this one made it through the editorial process." However, another CJR post from Sara Morrison reports that the artist behind the drawing is Peru-born Andres Guzman.

"I have a hard time believing that a man from Latin America deliberately intended to portray minorities, including Latinos, in a negative light," writes Morrison.

But what has some critics even more incensed is the narrative of the financial crisis which the cover seems to endorse: That initiatives aimed at helping minority borrowers are primarily to blame for the housing market collapse.

Media outlets such as the National Review, Fox News, The Wall Street Journal, and Rush Limbaugh's radio program have argued that programs such as Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as the Community Reinvestment Act, helped create the conditions for the housing collapse. As Fox News' Neil Cavuto put it: "I don't remember a clarion call that said, 'Fannie and Freddie are a disaster. Loaning to minorities and risky folks is a disaster.'"

The theory is that do-gooder liberal policies aimed at increasing minority homeownership actually created a housing bubble by putting massive loans in the hands of people who were sure to never pay them back. However, the evidence suggests otherwise: Businessweek itself has reported that the "Community Reinvestment Act had nothing to do with the subprime crisis," and the real blame for the bubble appears to lie more with predatory lenders who specifically targeted black and Latino families.

"This cover, however, all but implies that minorities are primed to cause another crisis," writes The American Prospect's Jamelle Bouie. "It's garbage."