Published November 12, 2009
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.
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 FoxNews.com 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.
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.
The app was developed for young voters who want instant online and telephone access to their senators and congressmen.
"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 noted that Apple has approved apps that simulate the sound of human flatulence, that let users make models out of human feces, and that create a bloody knife when the iPhone is shaken. There have also been controversial images of women’s breasts, and a notorious app that let the user quiet a crying baby by shaking it into silence, which was subsequently removed.
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."
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."
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 the rejection may have been politically motivated, noting that he considers himself a conservative filmmaker who hopes to be a "conservative version of Michael Moore some day." He created a short that was shown at the Cannes Film Festival in 2007 and won awards at other film festivals, and he’s developing a full-length feature film, called Supercaper, which has a political theme.
"I don’t know if Apple gets involved in politics or not," he said. "But I am one of the few conservative filmmakers. I am promoting a web site called, www.Iwantyourrmoney.net, which is a resource for town hall attendees and pictures President Obama in a 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 caricatures for the app is Tom Richmond, who has been involved in volunteer work for the 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.'"
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. 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.
Some think Apple may simply have been acting cautiously. 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 controversy intriguing. But to be fair, he told 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!"