Ray Griggs, a Hollywood-based conservative filmmaker, thought he had developed a worthwhile iPhone application: a telephone directory featuring politicians, such as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, depicted as cartoon caricatures.
But Apple apparently didn't see the value.
Griggs told FoxNews.com that his small firm, RG Entertainment, received a rejection letter this week from Apple calling the caricatures "objectionable."
Apple didn't return repeated phone calls and e-mails seeking comment for this story.
Pelosi spokesman Drew Hammill, when questioned about the application, said “this is the first I’ve heard of this.” He declined to comment further.
RG has developed apps for iPhone previously. The iPhone directory's caricatures are relatively benign, featuring the drawings of congressmen -- Republicans, Democrats and independents alike -- by freelance artist Tom Richmond, who has drawn for Mad Magazine. The heads of the politicians bobble on the screen.
The iPhone app was developed for young voters who want instant online and telephone access to their senators and representatives in Congress.
“Everyone’s talking about the health care bill and calling their congressman, but sometimes it’s hard to find their numbers,” Griggs said. “We made an iPhone app that puts them a click or a phone call away, and links by GPS to find your congressman or senator’s contact information. We thought Congress wanted to hear from their constituents.”
Griggs said that Apple’s iPhone has in the past approved, deeming non-offensive, applications that simulate the sound of human flatulence, and which let users make models out of human feces, or create a bloody knife when the iPhone screen is shaken. There have also been controversial images of women’s breasts and of babies seen on the iPhone. What is more, a Google search shows that Apple’s iTunes, which can be used on iPhones, features an MP3 called, The Trial of George W. Bush, in which the former president is taken to the docket in a war crimes fantasy trial.
The rejection letter from Apple stated as follows: “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.”
The letter was signed by the “iPhone Developer Program.” In bureaucratic fashion, no name of a person was given. The “offensive” image included in the e-mail from Apple – the caricature of Madam Speaker Pelosi.
The letter from Apple further stated, “applications may be rejected if they contain content or materials of any kind (text, graphics, images, photographs, sounds, etc.) that in Apple’s reasonable judgement may be found objectionable, for example, materials that may be considered obscene, pornographic, or defamatory.”
Griggs wonders if there is some political motivation involved in the rejection, noting that he considers himself a conservative filmmaker, and has created a short that was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007 and which won awards at other film festivals. He’s developing a full-length feature film, called Supercaper, which has a political theme. Griggs hopes to be a “conservative version of Michael Moore some day.”
Added Griggs: “I don’t know if Apple gets involved in politics or not. But I am one of the few conservative filmmakers. I am promoting a web site called, http://www.Iwantyourrmoney.net , which is a resource for Townhall attendees and pictures President Obama in founding father’s outfit. But these politicians are public figures. No permission is needed to write or comment on them. We have a complete right to do this.”
The artist who drew the pix for director/producer Griggs is named Tom Richmond, who has been involved in volunteer work for USO, the military support service organization. On his blog, in reaction to the Apple rejection, Richmond wrote: “I did all 540 caricatures (includes members of House, Senate and territorial delegates to Congress). In fact I finished the last few dozen in my hotel room in Washington D.C. prior to my USO trip… I’ve had rejections in theme parks before but never because my drawings were considered ‘obscene, pornographic, or defamatory.’”
The story broke on Richmond’s blog this week, and was being picked up by the technology trade press overnight. Griggs said that since that happened, he’s received a lot of e-mail alleging that Speaker Pelosi’s husband, Paul, owns $5 million in shares in Apple. FoxNews.com located on article reporting on the 2008 financial disclosure forms filed by members of Congress, which indeed stated that, at the time of the filing of the form, the speaker’s spouse owned the shares. See, http://www.rollcall.com/features/Guide-to-Congress_2008/guide/28506-1.html?page=5
Speaker Pelosi’s spokesman would not answer e-mailed questions asking whether her husband still owned the shares, or whether she or her staff or her husband were in contact with Apple regarding the images. Apple’s public relations persons were phoned and e-mailed several times with questions regarding this too, but declined to respond.
Some experts think Apple may just be acting overly cautiously, given Washington’s inclination to intervene in business these days. Nationally syndicated columnist and commentator Betsy Hart tells FoxNews.com “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!”
Tim Graham, director of media analysis, at the Media Research Center, which follows media bias, calls the iPhone controversy an “intriguing story.” But, to be fair, he tells FoxNews.com, “I can see where a Pelosi fan might think this (caricature) is a little unflattering, with the crossing eyes. It makes me want to see how tan the Boehner cartoon is!”
Another expert, a business lawyer, tells FoxNews.com that Apple has historically maintained very tight control over all of its technology, and, if it had not been so zealous, it might have actually emerged as the leading personal computing platform, rather than its rival in Redmond, Wash. “Many private institutions consider politics inappropriate to what they do,” said Alan Behr, an attorney with Alston + Bird in New York City.