The Washington Post’s online edition has dropped the controversial political cartoons of Ted Rall, a self-described liberal who has been criticized many times over the past year for racist and insensitive attacks on conservatives.
Rall told Editor & Publisher he believes the Universal Features Syndicate cartoon was let go because of Rall’s Nov. 4 offering depicting 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 the industry publication.
But WashingtonPost.com Executive Editor Doug Feaver said the decision was based on his “cumulative” work.
“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.”
The move follows the decision by the New York Times website earlier this year to drop Rall because “some of his humor was not in keeping with the tone we try to set.”
Rall said the Post is “depriving readers of one of the most stridently liberal voices in the media at a time when liberal values are under ferocious attack.”
He admitted his analogy in the Nov. 4 cartoon “obviously fell flat” or “overshadowed” the main point.
Among the criticism received by the Post were e-mails from offended parents of mentally handicapped children.
The cartoonist said he “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,” Rall told E&P. “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.”
But Rall insisted the Post dropped him for one “boneheaded” drawing which it could have pulled without canceling him entirely.
“Nobody bats a thousand — not me, not anyone,” Rall told E&P. “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.”
Rall also came under fire for controversial cartoons or opinion pieces ridiculing National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice, widows of 9-11 victims, Ronald Reagan and slain Army Ranger Pat Tillman.
Tillman was the former NFL player who left his career to become an Army Ranger and was killed in Afghanistan. The cartoonist called him “a sap,” an “idiot” and a “cog in a low-rent occupation army that shot more innocent civilians than terrorists to prop up puppet rulers and exploit gas and oil resources.”
In a July 1 strip ridiculing Bush administration figures, Rall suggested “appropriate punishments for deposed Bushists” that parody alleged treatment of Iraqi detainees at the Abu Ghraib prison. One panel has Rice saying, “I was Bush’s beard! His house nigga. His …” She is interrupted by a character wearing a shirt reading “You’re not white, stupid” who says, “Now hand over your hair straightener.”
A conservative black organization responded, calling on Universal Press Syndicate to drop distribution of Rall’s cartoons.
In a commentary after the death of Ronald Reagan in June, Rall wrote the former president is “turning crispy brown right about now,” prompting a barrage of traffic that crashed his website.
Rall told E&P he is against censorship, noting he opposed campaigns to fire or boycott conservatives Rush Limbaugh and Dr. Laura Schlessinger.