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Comedian's book back on shelf in Gulfport library

By The Associated Press
01.12.05

GULFPORT, Miss. — A library board reversed a ban on comedian Jon Stewart's best-selling satirical book, which it had passed because of its image of Supreme Court justices' faces superimposed on naked bodies.

The Jackson-George Regional Library System board of trustees was criticized by local residents and in e-mails from out of state after it banned America (The Book): A Citizen's Guide to Democracy Inaction last month. The trustees had said they objected to the image.

But the board voted 5-2 on Jan. 10 to lift the ban, and the book was returned to circulation in the system's eight libraries yesterday.

"We have come under intense scrutiny by the outside community," said David Ables, board chairman. "We don't decide for the community whether to read this book or not, but whether to make it available."

The book was written by Stewart and the writers of "The Daily Show," the Comedy Central fake-news program Stewart hosts. Released in September, it has spent 15 weeks on The New York Times best-seller list and was named Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly, the book industry's trade magazine.

Wal-Mart refused to stock the book because of the image, which includes full frontal nudity. The facing page has cutouts of the nine justices' robes, with a caption asking readers to "restore their dignity by matching each justice with his or her respective robe."

Board member David Ogborn opposed lifting the ban. "Our libraries are not a trash bin for pornographic materials," he said.

Robert Willits, the library system director, said yesterday that the board members had acted promptly and fittingly.

"There were 12 to 15 people in the audience and most spoke up in defense of the book," he said. "The board responds to community input and they made that decision."

Willits said most of the messages criticizing the move came from out of state.

"We got some absolutely nasty e-mails and telephone calls that you would not believe," he said. "We were communists and fascists at the same time."


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