'Bee' Public Editor Defends Babin Cartoon

By: E&P Staff The Sacramento (Calif.) Bee's public editor defended a drawing by staff editorial cartoonist Rex Babin that angered dozens of firefighters -- mostly from outside of Sacramento.

Babin did the three-panel cartoon after some on-duty Sacramento firefighters attended a porn-star costume ball, drank on the job, and cruised city bars looking for young women and then giving them rides on firetrucks. One of Babin's panels played on the famous 9/11 photo of the American flag being raised by three firefighters at Ground Zero; this time, the men were hoisting a flag with the Playboy bunny logo. Another panel played on the famous 1995 photo of a firefighter holding a baby who died in the Oklahoma City bombing; in Babin's version, a firefighter was carrying a scantily clad woman.

The Bee's public editor, Armando Acuna, said a number of e-mailers upset about Babin's use of the iconic images ignored the fact that the cartoon was specifically addressing the misdeeds of some Sacramento firefighters, not commenting on firefighters in general. "The Sacramento firefighters stained these images. It's their behavior that is a disgrace," said the King Features Syndicate-distributed Babin, as quoted by Acuna in his public editor column.

"The job of an editorial cartoonist," wrote Acuna, "is to be strongly opinionated and to cast his commentary in vivid images, even ones that some might find offensive."


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