‘LA Times’ Cartoonist on Secret Service Visit

By: Dave Astor

What does Michael Ramirez think about doing an editorial cartoon supporting President Bush and then being visited by a Secret Service agent?

“It makes you wonder about our so-called ‘intelligence’ services,” the Los Angeles Times staffer replied with a laugh. “You have to be a little bit intelligent to ‘get’ the cartoon. The majority of readers ‘got’ it.”

Ramirez’s July 20 cartoon, a takeoff on the famous photo of a Viet Cong member being shot at point-blank range, showed a man labeled “politics” aiming a gun at a caricatured version of Bush.

The next day, Ramirez received a call from Secret Service agent Peter Damos asking if he could visit. The conservative cartoonist jokingly agreed, because “I just assumed it was a hoax.” When Damos showed up at the Times, he was turned away after speaking with an attorney for the paper.

“I thought the visit was a little bit of an overreaction,” Ramirez told E&P Online.

“The cartoon was obviously not meant to encourage violence,” continued the Pulitzer Prize winner, explaining he was showing that, “metaphorically, there are people currently engaged in the political assassination of our president.”

Ramirez has received “hundreds” of responses to the cartoon, with reaction split about 50/50. One person supporting Ramirez is Rep. Christopher Cox (R-Calif.), who said July 22 that the Secret Service used “profoundly bad judgment” and owed Ramirez an apology.

Copley News Service syndicates Ramirez’s work to 400 newspapers. About a dozen of these clients e-mailed Copley about the cartoon, with the majority criticizing it. But none canceled, said Copley Editorial Director Glenda Winders on July 23.

She told E&P Online that some e-mailers didn’t realize Ramirez’s drawing was a takeoff on the Vietnam-era photo. “They misunderstood the cartoon,” Winders said. “They thought it was calling for the assassination of President Bush, which it is not. I thought it was a very intelligent cartoon.”

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