The Chicago Tribune dropped yesterday's "Prickly City" comic that indirectly referred to Sen. Ted Kennedy's 1969 Chappaquiddick accident, which killed a woman.

Scott Stantis, the strip's creator, said he could understand the Tribune's action after he learned of an editing change Universal Press Syndicate had made in the strip.

Yesterday's "Prickly City" showed Stantis' two main characters talking. "Did you hear what Ted Kennedy said during the Condoleezza Rice confirmation? 'They lied and people died,'" says Carmen the girl. Winslow the coyote pup replies: "Wow! Ted Kennedy said that? Was he driving?"

Geoff Brown, associate managing editor/features at the Tribune, told E&P: "The first two panels of the strip stated as fact that Sen. Ted Kennedy made a certain comment in a public forum. Kennedy made no such comment in that forum."

Brown added: "We also have been accused of cutting Kennedy slack because we're left-leaning. Sorry, that's not true. Universal will tell you we challenge 'The Boondocks' and 'Doonesbury' often. This episode was strictly about the words put in Kennedy's mouth. Had the strip arrived at its punch line without asserting that Kennedy made such a statement at the Rice hearing, then we would have run it and laughed along with everyone else."

Stantis said he knew "They lied and people died" wasn't a direct quote from Kennedy. The cartoonist condensed and paraphrased what Kennedy had said into those five words, and didn't put them in quote marks before sending the strip to Universal. The syndicate, according to Stantis, inserted the quote marks.

"Of course, they have an absolute right to edit their newspaper," Stantis said of the Tribune, which replaced "Prickly City" yesterday with a "Bizarro" comic by Dan Piraro of King Features Syndicate.

Universal distributes the 2004-launched "Prickly City" to nearly 100 newspapers. Stantis -- also an editorial cartoonist for The Birmingham (Ala.) News and Copley News Service -- said he's not aware of any other clients dropping yesterday's comic.