Der Spiegel's Donald Trump cover sparks controversy

Story highlights

  • Illustration shows Trump beheading the Statue of Liberty
  • Artist calls it a "beheading of democracy"; German politician calls it "tasteless"

(CNN)German magazine Der Spiegel has sparked fierce debate after depicting US President Donald Trump beheading the Statue of Liberty on its front cover.

The illustration by Edel Rodriguez, who arrived in the US as a political refugee from Cuba in 1980, has prompted both positive and negative reaction across the world.
    Rodriguez's image shows a cartoon Trump holding a bloodied knife in his left hand with the statue's head in his right, while blood drips onto the floor.
    The caption "America First" accompanies the image on the cover of the weekly magazine. Trump used the phrase as a slogan during his campaign and said in his inaugural speech: "From this moment on, it's going to be America first."
    The magazine cover comes amid anger and protests around the world over Trump's travel ban. The controversial order banned foreign nationals from seven Muslim-majority countries from entering the US for 90 days, suspended all refugee entry to the country for 120 days and indefinitely suspended entry for Syrian refugees.
    "It's a beheading of democracy, a beheading of a sacred symbol," Rodriguez told the Washington Post. He said he drew a link between ISIS and Trump, adding that "both sides are extremists, so I'm just making a comparison between them."
    Der Spiegel's is just one of several recent controversial magazine covers to feature Trump's image.

    Trump 'dividing Washington'

    In an editorial on its English website, Der Spiegel editor Klaus Brinkbäumer wrote of Trump: "With his style of rule -- his decrees, his appointments and his firings -- he is dividing Washington and the rest of the country."
    Brinkbäumer added that he believes Trump "wants to establish an illiberal democracy, or worse; he wants to undermine the balance of power."
    The White House did not immediately respond to CNN's requests for a comment on the image.
    Reaction to the Der Spiegel cover has been mixed. Some are praising the magazine for its stance, while others such as Alexander Graf Lambsdorff, a member of Germany's Free Democrats (FDP) and vice president of the European Parliament, are calling it "tasteless."
    It's not the first time a news outlet has published an image of Trump decapitating the Statue of Liberty. The New York Daily News published a similar illustration on its front page in 2015.

    Strained US-German relations

    The timing of the cover also comes amid strained relations between Berlin and Washington.
    Last month, Trump accused German Chancellor Angela Merkel of making a "catastrophic mistake" with her open-door immigration policy.
    Then last week, an adviser to Trump accused Germany of using a "grossly undervalued" euro to hurt the US economy, a charge that drew a fierce rebuke from Merkel.
    This also is not the first time Der Spiegel has featured Trump on its front cover.
    In November, it published an illustration of Trump as a meteor speeding toward Earth.
    While that image attracted some attention, this latest effort by Rodriguez appears to have gone further.
    He also drew a Trump illustration for the cover of Time Magazine during the 2016 campaign, without adding facial features.
    "That's the way I see him," Rodriguez told the Washington Post. "I see him as someone that's very angry, and it's pretty much his mouth that's moving all the time, so that's how I tend to show him in some of my work."

    White House 'insurgent'

    Der Spiegel is among several magazines recently to use illustrations to voice opinions on Trump's policies.
    The Economist also caused controversy with its front-page image of Trump throwing a Molotov cocktail along with the caption: "An insurgent in the White House."
    The New Yorker's current cover features John W. Tomac's illustration, "Liberty's Flameout," showing a trail of smoke from the Statue of Liberty's extinguished torch.
    "It used to be that the Statue of Liberty, and her shining torch, was the vision that welcomed new immigrants," Tomac told the magazine. "And, at the same time, it was the symbol of American values. Now it seems that we are turning off the light."
    Bloomberg Businessweek adorned its front cover with a photo showing Trump holding what appears to be an executive order.
    But on the paper inside the folder, it says: "(Insert hastily drafted, legally dubious, economically destabilizing executive order here)."