By: Dave Astor
WashingtonPost.com is no longer running the cartoons of hard-hitting liberal Ted Rall.
Rall said he thinks the site dropped his work because of a Nov. 4 cartoon he did showing a drooling, mentally handicapped student taking over a classroom. “The idea was to draw an analogy to the electorate — in essence, the idiots are now running the country,” he told E&P.
“That cartoon certainly drew a significant amount of negative comment from our users,” said WashingtonPost.com Executive Editor Doug Feaver when contacted by E&P. But he added that the decision to drop Rall was a “cumulative” one that had been building for a while.
“Ted Rall does very interesting work,” Feaver said. “Some of it is not funny to an awful lot of people. We decided at the end of the day that it just did not fit the tone we wanted at WashingtonPost.com.”
Rall was dropped effective Nov. 15, according to Feaver.
In addition to receiving a number of complaints about the Nov. 4 cartoon (including e-mails from parents of mentally handicapped children), WashingtonPost.com also received a number of complaints from readers criticizing the dropping of Rall.
“The analogy obviously fell flat, or overshadowed the main point of the cartoon,” Rall said of his Nov. 4 drawing. “More importantly, I forgot the editorial cartoonist’s obligation to comfort the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable. I got the latter in that cartoon at the expense of the former. Special-needs children face a lot of challenges; they don’t need, or deserve, mocking from me. … The cartoon was effective in its way, but it could have been better.”
Rall said he was dropped for one “boneheaded” drawing when WashingtonPost.com has “no problem with 99% of my work.” He noted that the site could have pulled the one cartoon without canceling him entirely.
“Nobody bats a thousand — not me, not anyone,” said Rall. “Strong editorial cartoonists take risks. Sometimes they cross the line. Actions like the Post’s encourage the kind of timidity that has blandified not just editorial cartoons, but newspaper content overall.”
The Universal Press Syndicate creator said “I don’t think censorship is ever the answer,” mentioning that he publicly opposed campaigns to fire or boycott conservatives Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura Schlessinger for that reason.
Rall — who said WashingtonPost.com kept running him after his controversial cartoons about Pat Tillman (earlier this year) and “terror widows” — hopes the site will reconsider “depriving readers of one of the most stridently liberal voices in the media at a time when liberal values are under ferocious attack.”
Feaver declined to respond to Rall’s comments.
Another major newspaper site, NYTimes.com, dropped Rall this past winter (E&P, March 4) because it felt “some of his humor was not in keeping with the tone we try to set” — words not that different than WashingtonPost.com used today. But Rall said at the time that NYTimes.com was tired of dealing with e-mail campaigns from conservatives who didn’t like his work.