A cartoon strip featuring a child's counting song that was used as racist rhetoric in the past was published across the country on Monday, the day the U.S. honored the late Martin Luther King, Jr.
The creator of the nationally syndicated cartoon strip, "Pickles," responded to one reader's criticism that the cartoon published Monday had a racial connotation to it.
In the strip, a grandmother is asking her grandson about his prayers at bedtime. The child begins with the Lord's Prayer and then ends it with a version of a children's counting song that has included racist language in the past.
The song "Eeny, Meeny, Miny, Moe" can be traced back to the 19th century and was sung in several different languages.
However, a version that replaces the word "tiger" with a racist word for an African-American person was used at one time in the U.S.
After NBC 7 was contacted by one of our viewers, we reached out to the author of "Pickles."
Brian Crane, 70, has been publishing "Pickles" since 1990, according to an online biography.
Crane told NBC 7 he was shocked to hear someone found the strip about a child's bedtime prayer to be offensive.
"It never crossed my mind that anyone would see any racist overtones in it," he continued. "The fact that it was published on Martin Luther King's holiday was pure coincidence and no meaning was intended by it."
Crane said he has editors look over his work and approve it before it goes to print.
"I am dismayed at how people today are just looking for the slightest thing to be offended by, when no offense was intended," Crane said.
Amy Lago, the Comics Editor with the Washington Post News Service & Syndicate is responsible for editing the comic strips that go out to newspapers across the country.
Lago issued the following statement: "Regrettably, I didn’t know such an appalling version of the rhyme existed. I am deeply sorry to any readers who were hurt and assure them that no offense was intended."
NBC 7 also contacted the San Diego Union-Tribune which prints "Pickles" in San Diego.
Editor and Publisher Jeff Light said the newspaper "would not have run the strip if they had seen it and been aware that it could offend."
"There is, unfortunately, a racist variant of eeny-meeny in American history, although I'm not sure it is one that many people are familiar with. We certainly would never intend to publish a comic strip or anything else that is offensive on racial or ethic grounds," Light said.
See the cartoon strip here.
The song was the subject of a lawsuit in which a flight attendant had used it to direct passengers to find a seat. The passengers in the case were African American.
Two years ago, a T-shirt for the "Walking Dead" series that featured the phrase was pulled from store shelves because of the backlash. Series star Jeffery Dean Morgan called the reaction "stupid" according to one report.