You’d
think that the Bush administration would have more important things to
worry about, but wars and internal controversies haven’t stopped the
White House trying to stamping out the use of the presidential seal on
a satirical website.

Satirical newspaper The Onion regularly produces a parody of George W Bush’s weekly radio address on its website
– their latest effort has Bush calling for Halloween to be reclaimed as
a day for worshipping Jesus rather than the “dark lord of hatred and
terror” – complete with a picture of Bush and the official seal.

But as The New York Times reports, Grant M. Dixton, associate counsel to the president, wrote to The Onion on 28 September: “It has come to my attention that The Onion
is using the presidential seal on its Web site.” Citing the United
States Code, Mr. Dixton wrote that the seal “is not to be used in
connection with commercial ventures or products in any way that
suggests presidential support or endorsement.” Exceptions may be made
but The Onion had never applied for such an exception.

The Onion was amused. “I’m surprised the president deems it wise to spend taxpayer money for his lawyer to write letters to The Onion,”
Scott Dikkers, editor-in-chief, wrote to Mr. Dixton. He suggested the
money be used instead for tax breaks for satirists. More formally, The Onion’s lawyers responded that the paper’s readers are well aware that The Onion is a joke and that as the paper and its website are free, the seal isn’t being used for commercial purposes.

Peter Fray

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