The New York Times reported this week that Grant Dixton, associate counsel to the President of the United States, wrote the editors of The Onion in September to demand that they remove the presidential seal from the newspaper's website. The seal appears on a page where The Onion posts parodies of the president's weekly radio address.
"It has come to my attention that The Onion is using the presidential seal on its Web site," Dixton wrote. He noted that federal law prohibits the use of the seal "in connection with commercial ventures or products in any way that suggests presidential support or endorsement." The Onion's lawyers responded that it seemed unlikely that anyone would really think President Bush was supporting or endorsing their well-known (and free) satirical website, which after all recently ran a story entitled "Bush to Appoint Someone to Be in Charge of Country."
Other recent not-Bush-supported-or-endorsed stories have included "CIA Asks Bush to Discontinue Blog," and the headline story on the day Harriet Myers withdrew her name from consideration for the Supreme Court, "Bush to Nominate Next Person Who Walks Through Door." The Times noted that Mr. Dixton found time to write his letter in late September, at a time when his office was supposed to be helping the president find someone to replace Justice O'Connor. Myers (Dixton's boss) was nominated a few days later.
The Onion's editor-in-chief also responded, expressing his surprise that the president "deems it wise to spend taxpayer money for his lawyer to write letters to The Onion." He suggested the money could be put to better use by funding tax breaks for satirists.
The presidential seal still appears on the web page in question.
Thanks to presidential historian Rob Bogen for spotting this item.