January 9. 2004
GULFPORT, Miss. - Library officials in two southern Mississippi counties have banned Jon Stewart's best-selling "America (The Book)" over the satirical textbook's nude depictions of the nine U.S. Supreme Court justices.
"I've been a librarian for 40 years and this is the only book I've objected to so strongly that I wouldn't allow it to circulate," said Robert Willits, director of the Jackson-George Regional Library System of eight libraries in Jackson and George counties.
"We're not an adult bookstore. Our entire collection is open to the entire public," Willits said. "If they had published the book without that one picture, that one page, we'd have the book."
Wal-Mart has declined to stock the book because of the page, which features the faces of the nine Supreme Court justices superimposed over naked bodies. The facing page has cutouts of the justices' robes, complete with a caption asking readers to "restore their dignity by matching each justice with his or her respective robe."
The book by Stewart and the writers of "The Daily Show," the Comedy Central fake-news program he hosts, was released in September. It has spent 15 weeks on The New York Times best seller list for hardcover nonfiction, and was named Book of the Year by Publishers Weekly, the industry trade magazine.
Former English teacher Tara Skelton of Ocean Springs said the libraries shouldn't decide what is in poor taste.
"It just really seemed kind of silly to me," she said. "I don't think the Supreme Court justices have filed any defamation of character or libel suits. It's humor."