The Simpsons characters appeared on the web site for a Republican House Committee — where the villainous Mr. Burns rubs his hands in glee over a children’s health insurance bill.
“If the poor children can get a piece of the action, why can’t I?” gushes the cartoon’s greedy owner of a nuclear power plant.
A Republican committee spokesperson confirmed this morning that their site was not hacked to include cartoon characters, as some bloggers had argued. The press release from the Republicans on the House Commerce Committee included the cartoon characters to parody the bill’s perceived flaws.
But what does Fox Broadcasting have to say about the use of their cartoon characters? It’s illegal, says licensing spokesman Andy Bandit.
“Twentieth Century Fox was unaware of the illegal use of characters from The Simpsons in this press release. Let me assure you, Fox did not authorize this use. Characters from The Simpsons may not be used in this manner…”
Last month the committee’s ranking Republican, Joe Barton lobbied to continue funding the State Children’s Health Insurance Program, or SCHIP, but only in its current form. He argued that a new bill (recently vetoed) would expand government health benefits to wealthy families.
Friday’s press release dramatized these concerns by showing the Simpsons’ wealthy power plant owner supporting the children’s healthcare legislation. “The little darlings are needy? Me, too. I need somebody to pay.” The parody imagines a bipartisan alliance of Fox cartoon characters supporting the legislation, since the Simpsons’ local mayor, a Democrat, also appears — accompanied by what the press release describes as “37 rental children.”
The parody drew mixed reactions on the web, with some wondering whether the Republican’s site had been hacked. “Committee staffers usually don’t go out of their way to appear this foolish on purpose,” wrote Steve Benen at Talking Points Memo. He cited another blogger who linked the press release only after including a caveat. “Unless their website got hacked, this is an actual SCHIP press release.” And blogger Atrios joked that the press release hid a secret second message about Republicans. “Their brains just aren’t wired up quite right.”
But reaction to the parody seems to split along party lines. At the Motley Fool’s site, a current events forum drew a defense of the parody’s sentiment. “Sorry, but Republicans have become a little too, how shall I say it? … cynical when it comes to these liberal gambits using children, war widows, wounded veterans, old people, etc. I think most people in general see right through them.”
The press release shows the cartoonishly scheming Mr. Burns objecting to the appearance of some actual children, even though he’s appearing as an SCHIP “supporter.”
“‘Get these props away from me,’” Burns hissed.”
The press release closes with a disclaimer — “Actual facts and events may vary, but really, how much?” And while one blogger called the broad caricatures “an insult to this debate,” at least one SCHIP supporter grudgingly admitted that he appreciated their use of the Simpsons.
“This might be the coolest press release Republicans have ever made.”