The administration has just written a cease-and-desist letter to the satirical newspaper The Onion, urging it to stop using the presidential seal on its website.
The publication has a cult-like following for its spoofing of the news and political leadership generally (recent headline, "Bush To Appoint Someone To Be In Charge of Country").
The paper's editor, Scott Dikkers, wrote back: "I'm surprised the President deems it wise to spend taxpayer money for his lawyer to write letters to The Onion. If you have a lot of extra money lying around that you don't know what to do with, how about a tax break for satirists?"
Parody and satire are geunderstood to be protected speech under the First Amendment of the US Constitution. The presidential seal has been used in many fictional or spoof contexts over the years, especially by the entertainment industry. But that was not the argument used by White House counsel Grant Dixton. He wrote: "The Presidential Seal is not to be used in connection with commercial ventures or products in any way that suggests presidential support or endorsement."
That's a strange interpretation of what The Onion does, since anyone clicking on the seal on the paper's website is directed straight to a series of spoof presidential radio addresses that come across as anything but an endorsement.
The Onion's lawyer wrote back: "Readers of The Onion know that its incidental use of the Presidential Seal and its complementary parody of the President's weekly radio address are not meant to convey sponsorship but, on the contrary, to serve as political commentary."
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