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By: Joel Davis

Editorial Drawing Dealt With Volatile Middle East Issue

A picture may be worth a thousand words, but a cartoon by Los Angeles Times artist Michael Ramirez has stopped traffic in Vermont.

The editorial cartoon, which ran in the L.A. Times Oct. 6 and was distributed by Copley News Service to papers around the country, depicts a Jew and a Muslim in front of a stone wall of “hate,” inspired by the recent surge of violence in the Middle East.

Ramirez and others at the L.A. Times received about 2,000 complaints from readers across the country. Editorial Page Editor Janet Clayton told E&P the “reaction has been very intense,” though she said much of it was via e-mail campaigns generated by groups upset with the cartoon.

“It’s hard to know how many of the complaints came from people who actually saw the cartoon and were upset, and from people who just heard about it and wrote in,” she said. Although the cartoon shows a Muslim as well as a Jew, most of the identifiable complaints came from readers offended by the depiction of the Jew, Clayton said.

About 100 Jewish protesters halted traffic in front of the Rutland (Vt.) Herald for 30 minutes after the paper ran the cartoon.

Ramirez is no stranger to controversy – a cartoon he penned in January concerning gays in the military generated a similar furor. “We like to let the cartoon speak for itself, ” Clayton declared, but the paper’s reaction belied this, with L.A. Times Readers’ Representative Narda Zacchino preparing a column about the controversy.

Ramirez said protest was “something that’s pretty common in our business,” but he took the extraordinary step of penning a personal note posted on the L.A. Times’ Web site and sent to complainants. In it, he defended the drawing as justified and evenhanded.

Later, he told E&P that “the hateful letters and uncompromising interpretation” of his drawing “demonstrates the necessity for the cartoon.”

Joel Davis ( is West Coast editor for E&P.

Copyright 2000, Editor & Publisher.

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