NEW YORK - After two days of protests in front of its offices, The New York Post has apologized to those offended by an editorial cartoon that critics said was racist because it likened President Barack Obama to a chimpanzee. The newspaper, which is usually full of gossip and scandal, acknowledged that the cartoon published on Wednesday had drawn controversy because African-Americans and others saw it as a depiction of Obama. "This most certainly was not its intent; to those who were offended by the image, we apologize," the paper said in an editorial on its website headlined "That Cartoon." "It was meant to mock an ineptly written federal stimulus bill. Period," the paper said. The cartoon of a policeman shooting an ape played on the real shooting of a pet chimpanzee in Connecticut this week. A police officer in the cartoon says, "They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill." The cartoon ran a day after Obama signed into law the $787 billion economic stimulus that he had strongly promoted. Critics interpreted the cartoon's dead chimp as a reference to Obama, who became the first black president of the United States on January 20. Demonstrators led by civil rights activist Al Sharpton chanted "End racism now" outside the skyscraper headquarters of the newspaper's parent company in midtown Manhattan on Thursday. They called for the jailing of Rupert Murdoch, whose international media conglomerate News Corp owns the Post. The newspaper initially defended the cartoon as a parody of Washington politics, but Sharpton said it exploited a potent image in the history of racism toward blacks. "I guess they thought we were chimpanzees," Sharpton said. "They will find out we are lions." Sharpton said in a statement on Thursday night that groups protesting the cartoon would go ahead with a previously scheduled rally outside the Post on Friday afternoon and decide on a response to the Post editorial. He added that "though we think it is the right thing for them to apologize to those they offended, they seem to want to blame the offence on those of whom raised the issue, rather than take responsibility for what they did." The Post said it was not apologizing to all of its critics. "There are some in the media and in public life who have had differences with The Post in the past -- and they see the incident as an opportunity for payback. To them, no apology is due," the editorial said. "Sometimes a cartoon is just a cartoon -- even as the opportunists seek to make it something else," it said. Critics said the racist message was clear.