Fact Check

Book Display

Photograph shows a retail display of books about Barack Obama including a book about monkeys?

Published Feb. 27, 2009


Claim:   Photograph shows a store's display window presenting books about Barack Obama with a book about monkeys.


Examples:   [Collected via e-mail, February 2009]

Racism still exists obviously.

Let us not be lulled into a sense of complacency, due to the recent political success of President Obama. Racism still exists in this country. Like all things, nothing is perfect on this planet, in this world. We have an obligation to be active on issues that simply cannot be ignored. Along these lines we should all actively spread the word of how Barnes and Noble apparently feels about black people or at least our President. Please forward this to as many people you think should be aware of this and would be offended by this. Boycotting Barnes and N! oble wil l show the economic effect of people who will not tolerate racism.

Barnes and Noble had this as their store front display in Coral Gables , FL in the Miracle Mile Mall. I am totally disgusted and I think it is important that we all find a different place to buy our books. Obviously this is a place of extreme ignorance. How far have we really come? God bless.


I am a confirmed bibliophile and have spent hundreds (or probably thousands) of dollars at your stores and their affiliates over the past two decades. I just received this link from my sister in New Jersey. After seeing this merchandising display in the link below, you can be assured I will not shop at Barnes and Noble or any of their affiliates! You can also be assured that I will pass a copy of this e-mail along to as many people as possible, including the members of MoveOn.org and any other large group of people who might also be outraged by this blatant and malicious characterization of the First Family. You have allowed your employees to orchestrate a racist display under the guise of "merchandising"! Enough is enough.

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Origins:   Given the recent political controversy over perceived racist

connotations in a New York Post political cartoon that used the imagery of a violent chimpanzee shot dead by police to comment on the debate over President Barack Obama's economic stimulus bill, any connection (intentional or otherwise) between the presidential image and that of monkeys or apes is bound to come under particularly strong scrutiny right now.

It was therefore not surprising that this purported image of the window of a Barnes & Noble retail book outlet, showing volumes about President Obama surrounding a book about monkeys, quickly drew widespread attention (and outrage) on the Internet. Barnes & Noble spokesperson Mary Ellen Keating apologized for the photo, saying that although one of chain's Florida stores did indeed feature the window display pictured, they believed it to be the result of a customer prank rather than a deliberate action of any of the company's employees:

Barnes & Noble would like to publicly apologize for an incident in our Coral Gables, Florida store. We believe that a customer played a cruel joke and placed an inappropriate title ("Monkeys") in the front window of our store, where we were featuring books written by or about President Obama. We want to assure our customers that the book placed by someone other than any of our booksellers was never intended to be included in our display and was removed as soon as we became aware of the situation. We are looking into it and taking the steps necessary so that it does not happen again. From time to time customers will move titles from one area of the store to another. In this particular case, we do not condone whatever message may have been intended with the placement of this title in our Presidential display. It certainly was not part of our merchandising and we regret that we didn't see the placement of this title immediately.

Last updated:   2 March 2009


    Thompson, Krissah.   "Offensive Bookstore Display Leads to Viral Outcry."

    voices.washingtonpost.com.   2 March 2009.

David Mikkelson founded the site now known as snopes.com back in 1994.

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