Oliphant Priest Cartoon Angers NY Readers

By: Dave Astor

Updated at 11 a.m., April 5

Sexual abuse in the Catholic Church has been front-page news. Ironically, it was the demands of a front page that allowed a controversial cartoon on the scandal to slip into The Record of Troy, N.Y.

The paper apologized for what it said was a mistake in publishing the Pat Oliphant drawing, which showed a horde of lecherous priests chasing kids out of “St. Paedophilia’s” church in the “annual running of the altar boys.”

Record Editor Lisa Robert Lewis said she was planning to pull the cartoon before the March 28 editorial page went to press. “I decided it was insensitive and inappropriate and clearly shouldn’t run,” she told E&P Online.

Then, Lewis was called away to deal with a problem on the front page, and failed to pull the cartoon. “It was my responsibility and my fault that this occurred,” she added.

Lewis said the paper, which has many Catholic readers, would have gotten a lot of negative response to the cartoon in any case. But the reaction increased both because Oliphant’s drawing ran the day before Good Friday and a local conservative radio host railed against it. About 250 readers contacted the paper, with only a handful liking the cartoon.

The Record — which has covered the pedophilia scandal in its news pages — ran both a page-one and editorial-page apology for the cartoon. Lewis, who also edits the editorial page, said she has been at the paper for 26 years and felt she owed her readers a more detailed explanation than the page-one note alone.

The paper did not cancel Oliphant, who has more than 300 clients.

Universal Press Syndicate doesn’t know of any other print clients complaining about the cartoon, according to Director of Communications Kathie Kerr, though she added that The New York Times and The Washington Post Web sites declined to use it. Clients “just don’t run a cartoon if they don’t think it’s appropriate for their audience,” said Kerr. “The editorial cartoonist’s job is to view the world through a satirical eye. Their work will not please everybody.”

Oliphant, who usually doesn’t comment about his cartoons to the media, did not return a call.

The cartoon can be seen at http://dailynews.yahoo.com/h/cx/uc/20020321/po/?u.

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