Apple rejects iPhone app featuring caricatures of politicians; deems Pelosi drawing ‘offensive’

“A conservative filmmaker in Hollywood thought he had developed a worthwhile iPhone app: a telephone directory listing every U.S. senator and congressman, with caricatures of the legislators drawn by an artist,” Gene J. Koprowski reports for FOX News. “But Apple apparently didn’t see the value, and the computer behemoth said a cartoon drawing of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was part of the reason why.”

“The filmmaker, Ray Griggs, told that his small firm, RG Entertainment, received a rejection letter from Apple this week calling the caricatures ‘objectionable.’ He added that he has received several e-mails suggesting that Apple stock owned by Pelosi’s husband may have played a factor in the decision,” Koprowski reports. “Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill, when questioned about the application, said ‘this is the first I’ve heard of this.’ He declined to comment further. Apple didn’t return repeated phone calls and e-mails seeking comment for this story. RG has developed other apps for the iPhone that Apple has accepted.”

“The directory’s caricatures feature the drawings of every member of Congress — Republicans, Democrats and independents alike — by freelance artist Tom Richmond, who has drawn for Mad Magazine. The heads of the politicians bobble on the iPhone screen,” Koprowski reports. “The app was developed for young voters who want instant online and telephone access to their senators and congressmen.”

Koprowski reports, “Apple’s rejection letter for Griggs’ app states: ‘Thank you for submitting Bobble Rep – 111th Congress Edition to the App Store. We’ve reviewed Bobble Rep – 111th Congress Edition and determined that we cannot post this version of your iPhone application to the App Store because it contains content that ridicules public figures.'”

MacDailyNews Take: So what? Public figures exist to be ridiculed. And the whole point of caricature is meant to depict a person or thing with certain striking characteristics exaggerated in order to create a comic and/or distorted effect in the name of instant recognition. Caricature has a very long and important history in politics, entertainment, literature, etc. It’s an art form, not something that should be banned because some politically correct cretan in a Cupertino cubicle thinks there’s a chance that it might offend somebody somewhere. Newsflash: Somebody somewhere will always be offended no matter what.* Sheesh. Thomas Nast is spinning in his grave right now.

MacDailyNews Note: Read Tom Richmond’s reaction to Apple’s idiotic, ill-conceived rejection via his blog here.

Koprowski continues, “The e-mail was signed by the ‘iPhone Developer Program’ — no name was given — and it included an image of Pelosi that it deemed ‘offensive.’ [Griggs said], ‘These politicians are public figures. No permission is needed to write or comment on them. We have a complete right to do this.'”

“Griggs said he’s received a lot of e-mail alleging that Speaker Pelosi’s husband, Paul, owns $5 million in shares in Apple, and the Washington newspaper Roll Call wrote that the speaker’s spouse owned the shares,” Koprowski reports. “Pelosi’s spokesman would not answer e-mailed questions asking whether her husband still owns the shares, or whether she or her staff or her husband were in contact with Apple regarding the images.”

MacDailyNews Take: So, Griggs received a lot of email. Big deal. As if Pelosi or her husband has a hot line to Apple’s snot-nosed app approval flunkies. Seriously, we’d be shocked if either of The Pelosis even know there is an App Store, much less have a hand in rejecting a once-obscure iPhone app that offers online and telephone access to senators and congressmen alongside their caricatures. Let’s stay at least loosely connected with reality, okay? That said, Griggs is doing the right thing and should keep conjuring up as much publicity as possible. Maybe this one’ll finally prompt Apple to take some meaningful action or at least explain why an app devoted to a helping a cartoon monkey piss into a toilet before the room overflows with pee is fine and dandy for App Store inclusion, but this app is not.

Koprowski reports, “Some think Apple may simply have been acting cautiously. Nationally syndicated columnist and commentator Betsy Hart tells ‘I don’t think this is just another case of liberal media bias. While it may start there, surely Apple has witnessed what the Democratic machine in Washington has done or attempted to do as it has muscled into the American banking, auto and energy industries. And that’s not to mention healthcare. If I were the folks at a multibillion dollar corporation like Apple, I wouldn’t want to tick off Nancy Pelosi and her gang either!'”

Read more details in the full article here.

MacDailyNews Take: Apple blew it. Again. This app features caricatures of all 540 members of Congress, regardless of political party. This app should never have been rejected and whoever’s in charge of the college intern(s) in Apple’s App Store approvals department is clearly incompetent enough to be serving in the U.S. Congress themselves.

This falls into exactly the same category as the “I Am Rich” rejection. Apple should make sure that apps are safe to run on iPhone OS and leave taste, or lack thereof, out of the approval equation. It’s not Apple’s responsibility to “protect” people from downloading apps that may offend the downloaders’ or others’ sensibilities. Frankly, nobody much cares if you’re “offended.” STFU and deal with it; we’re beyond tired of all the whining. Nobody’s entitled to a life free of offense and insult, real or imagined. That’s simply not how this planet and the human race work. Attempting to thwart human nature instead of using it constructively is the root of mankind’s folly. We could’ve used “humankind” there, but we didn’t. And, we’re never changing it. Deal with it.

Apple’s only considerations should be to make sure apps do not harm the device and/or encourage physically harming others, directly or indirectly. That’s why we immediately condemned that despicable “Baby Shaker” app and applauded Apple for nixing it. Of course, it never should have been approved in the first place, but we already knew that Apple’s app approval process had major issues long before that particular SNAFU. (And, by the way,” for those that want to bring up FPS or similarly violent games: A defenseless infant is actually different than an armed soldier. If you’re ever in an actual war, you’re supposed to fight the enemy; if you’re ever holding a real baby, you’re never, ever to shake him or her.)

Members of Congress are public figures and political caricatures are part of the deal that comes with holding public office. The fact that these particular caricatures are so innocuous only highlights the severity of Apple’s App Store approval issues.

We don’t know if Apple’s problem is: (a) the quality of the staff they’ve hired to flip the coins they use to determine app approvals; (b) if said staff is totally overwhelmed; (c) if said “staff” is really just that lone not-so-smart MobileMe launch guy whom the new, more mellow Steve didn’t have the heart to fire; or (e) all of the above, but they really ought to have worked it out by now.

When they wake up, people with brains at Apple are likely going to want to correct this one yesterday. The problem is that yesterday has passed. Another looming App Store PR debacle is all that remains.

MacDailyNews Note: Contact Apple via Web form here.

UPDATE: November 14, 3:03 PM EST: About face! Apple approves iPhone app featuring caricatures of politicians for sale in App Store

*Trust us on that one. You should read our email.


  1. This is so inane, that I can’t believe it will stand more than 24 hours. Going out on a limb and predicting Apple will rescind this tomorrow (Fri 11/13).

    Let’s hope so. Apple needs to stay above the fray of politics du jour or risk screwing up one of the worlds most valuable brands.

  2. That’s an excellent caricature of Pelosi. It captures her usual deer in the headlights look quite well.

    Just look at this video of her and I’m sure you’ll agree:

    Yes, Virginia, we have a babbling, lying idiot as U.S. Speaker of the House, but look on the bright side, at least you’ve elected a Republican Governor!

    2010, then 2012.

  3. If I were Ray Griggs, I would sue Apple up the wazzoo for violation of the 1st Amendment right to freedom of speech. The app is WELL within the bounds of any sense of humor and respect. This is a lawsuit waiting to happen…

  4. Extremely proud to be a fairly large AAPL shareholder (1/4 the Speaker’s holdings) and strident Mac proponent. REALLY embarrassed to be part of the Apple/Gore/Pelosi/anti-US Chamber of Commerce political connection.

    Won’t own GE. Beginning to wonder about AAPL.

  5. Koprowski received some emails?
    Well then it MUST be true.

    Fox Executive — Gene, we need a conservative spin on this if you want to see it air. I don’t care if you don’t have a source for this story, just say you received some emails.

  6. @MacMan

    Of course you would sue Apple, you idiot. Its the knee jerk reaction of the generation of our times … wet in your diapers, cry to mommie, then go stammering off to your lawyer and file a suit for anything.

    Grow the fsck up.

  7. Careful there Apple. You’re treading in shark infested water when you start playing politics.

    As a fan of Apple, I can accept that they are a liberal company, but as a financial conservative I can only take so much.

    It would be a good idea to drop this one and continue to make insanely great products.

  8. I can’t see anything offensive about it… I’m not one to cry Apple censorship but this is really over the line. They should stop at checking to make sure things function and don’t do anything malicious programmatically. How they ever think they can be the world’s Taste Police is an irksome mystery to me. I really feel for this guy, developing apps isn’t fscking free you know.

  9. Perhaps apple should consider quieting some of the objections to app store rejections down by outsourcing the app store approval process to a third party. Spend the cash to train and retain a ton of staff. Then, when apps are rejected for idiotic reasons, Apple can swoop In as the hero to fix everything- blame the third party, make a big public show about talking to them, and only through Apple’s own intervention was it saved. Good PR, and a nice re-direct of the issue.

    Or they could just pull their heads out of their collective asses.

  10. MDN: Clearly your intention is to take a bat to the hornet’s nest of political contention around here. Home run.

    Whether RG Entertainment had similar intentions remains to be seen. In any case, I’m staying out of this one, as apparently is Apple.

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