The New York Post has apologised to those offended by an editorial cartoon that critics said was racist because it likened President Barack Obama to a chimpanzee.
The newspaper acknowledged that the cartoon published on Wednesday had drawn controversy because African Americans and others saw it as a depiction of Obama.
"This most certainly was not its intent; to those who were offended by the image, we apologize," the paper said in an editorial on its website headlined "That Cartoon."
"It was meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill. Period," the paper said.
The cartoon of a policeman shooting an ape played on the real shooting of a pet chimpanzee in Connecticut this week. A police officer in the cartoon says, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill."
The cartoon ran a day after Obama signed into law the $787 billion economic stimulus that he had strongly promoted. Critics interpreted the cartoon's dead chimp as a reference to Obama, who became the first black president of the United States on Jan. 20.
Demonstrators led by civil rights activist Al Sharpton chanted "End racism now!" outside the skyscraper headquarters of the newspaper's parent company in midtown Manhattan on Thursday. They called for the jailing of Rupert Murdoch, whose international media conglomerate News Corp owns the Post.
The newspaper initially defended the cartoon as a parody of Washington politics, but Sharpton said it exploited a potent image in the history of racism toward blacks.
"I guess they thought we were chimpanzees," Sharpton said. "They will find out we are lions."
Sharpton said he would meet with advertisers to encourage them to pull their ads from the New York Post and he urged New Yorkers to boycott the newspaper.
The Post said it was not apologizing to all of its critics.
"There are some in the media and in public life who have had differences with The Post in the past -- and they see the incident as an opportunity for payback. To them, no apology is due," the editorial said.
"Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon -- even as the opportunists seek to make it something else," it said.
But critics said the racist message was clear.
"You would have to be in a time warp or in a whole other world not to know what that means," said demonstrator Charles Ashley, 25, a model who did not believe the cartoon was an innocent political joke.
Others said it made light of assassinating Obama, a possibility they said that worries many Americans.
"Just the fact that they put a monkey with gunshot wounds in his chest, it gives the idea of an assassination," said Peter Aviles, 48, a building superintendent.
Police in Stamford, Connecticut, shot and killed a 90-kg chimpanzee on Monday after the pet nearly killed its owner's friend and attacked a police car.
The chimp, named Travis, had once starred in television commercials and was taking medication for Lyme disease.