SacBee’s Jack Ohman won’t apologize for Texas explosion cartoon

Sacramento Bee | Fox News

Sacramento Bee editorial cartoonist Jack Ohman has refused to apologize for an editorial cartoon berating loose business regulations in Texas that potentially led to the April 17 explosion of a fertilizer plant in the town of West, killing at least 14 people and injuring as many as 200 others.

Ohman wrote on his blog that he had received many complaints calling it (and him) “insensitive and tasteless” and pointed out he had drawn much more graphic images in the past to make his points.

I knew it was close to the edge, but I went with it, and I don’t go with things I can’t defend. I’m defending this one because I think that when you have a politician traveling across the country selling a state with low regulatory capacity, that politician also has to be accountable for what happens when that lack of regulation proves to be fatal.

Ohman told Poynter via email Monday “the responses have been running more positive than negative starting Saturday.” He said the sheer volume of attention the cartoon has gotten online has been staggering: “The social media exponential multiplier effect turned it into something I’ve never experienced, nor do I think any other U.S. political cartoonist had experienced,” he said.

The Bee on Friday posted a letter to the editor from Perry demanding Ohman and the Bee apologize for the cartoon.

“It was with extreme disgust and disappointment I viewed your recent cartoon. While I will always welcome healthy policy debate, I won’t stand for someone mocking the tragic deaths of my fellow Texans and our fellow Americans,” Perry wrote. “Additionally, publishing this on the very day our state and nation paused to honor and mourn those who died only compounds the pain and suffering of the many Texans who lost family and friends in this disaster. The Bee owes the community of West, Texas an immediate apology for your detestable attempt at satire.”

Fox News also quoted Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst demanding Ohman be fired for the cartoon. “I think it’s reprehensible for a member of the media to sit in safety and mock such a profound tragedy regardless of any ‘point’ he is trying to make,” Dewhurst said.

Ohman also told Poynter “the Bee editors and the publisher have been completely supportive.” Bee editorial page editor Stuart Leavenworth defended the cartoon in a response to the letter:

Jack Ohman’s cartoon of April 25 made a strong statement about Gov. Rick Perry’s disregard for worker safety, and his attempts to market Texas as a place where industries can thrive with few regulations. It is unfortunate that Gov. Perry, and some on the blogosphere, have attempted to interpret the cartoon as being disrespectful of the victims of this tragedy. As Ohman has made clear on his blog, he has complete empathy for the victims and people living by the plant. What he finds offensive is a governor who would gamble with the lives of families by not pushing for the strongest safety regulations. Perry’s letter is an attempt to distract people from that message.

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  • NateBowman

    To give the criminals time to react?

  • NateBowman

    I take exception to the title.

    As is shown in the supporting links, the paper and Mr. Ohman do not have anything to apologize about.

    Saying they refused to apologize implies that they had something to apologize for.

    A title which adhered more to journalistic principles might have said:
    “Critics misinterpret intent of cartoon” or something like that.

  • NateBowman

    “the paper has apparently drawn a conclusion without the benefit of an investigation.”

    The writer of the above has apparently not read the articles at the links provided which show that, in fact, exactly the opposite happened.

  • KennethKendrick

    Oh yeah, and today I get that nice red piece of paper that Texas is going to take my house for taxes. (my 25k home) to bad I am not a ocrp. they get tax free property

  • Tim Millspaugh

    Regulations were in place to prevent this, the company chose to hide their practices.. The County should have known what the danger was at this location, firefighters should never have taken an offensive position in this fire. The locals knew what was stored on that site, why they didn’t see it as a huge danger is a crazy unknown.

  • KevinFitzz

    If one has a nose on one’s face, the accident cause is clear. And have you seen Nick Anderson’s cartoon in the Houston Chronicle? Should HE apologize? It is also featured on the Op Ed page of The Sacramento Bee. There will be no apology because there is nothing to apologize for.

    As I said, anyone with a head and brain knows what ’caused’ the explosion. Like the fire at our local Chevron Refinery. Warned for days and clearly violating regs AGAINST it, they skipped the rules and a fire started. Regs are there for safety. Chevron will be fined 1000s of dollars but they just say ‘it’s the cost of doing business’. Regs are good and needed or corps will take advantage.

  • KennethKendrick

    In Texas, if you are 18-50 you get 3 months of Food Stamps in a 36 month period. Dropped Unempoymentr from 168 to 68. THIS STATE SUCKS. Went into major depression, been on a wait list for 4 years for mental health services. Teach me to do the right thing and turn in a bad TX company, Even had a Cabinet level member of the state Govt call me an asshole for turning them in

  • KevinFitzz

    And I thought I had it bad. Aren’t you eligible for food stamps or other type of help there in Texas? You should check that out. We should not allow other Americans to be in need of food.I wish you the best Kenneth.

  • KevinFitzz

    Ohman’s cartoon was great. I saw Nick Anderson’s cartoon today, as a ‘response’ to Ohman’s cartoon. That was great, and I emailed Nick at the Houston Chronicle to let him know his cartoon was great. great.

  • KennethKendrick

    I was the “WhistlebloIwer” against Peanut Corp in Texas and also used to
    work for the state 1st being a WB, pure retaliation. They found 355 food facilities that were never inspected did not fine a single one. (try to say they did not know
    Peanut Corp was even there so they did not inspect. But I speed I bet I
    get a ticket, Food manufacture breaks the law, nothing.
    2nd. The unemployment #s are a lie and Perry knows it, he Contracts out
    unemployment agencies by region and they the #s are a lie to make him
    look better. 3rd.(yeah I can remember my 3 points)My last job (that was cut) just
    above minimum wage, I was wrote because I had my legs crossed wrong and
    part of shoe was touching the chair. Also got wrote up because i stood
    up 90 seconds, typical treatment if you work in Texas. I have to fight
    to even find a min. Wage job now. I get 68 a week in unemployment, and I
    am literally starving to death (from 156 pds to 118 pds) This anti regulatory state has turned us into a minimum wage, 1920 era of employee treatment. Corp. are not held accountable, but the people are. And Taxes, yeah right., We own a house outright, (was my wife’s moms old house as I lost my home as taxes doubled in ten years) worth about 25K, and will loose it soon as we can not pay the Taxes on it. Hey Rick, your corrupt, and
    keep lining your pockets with corp money while I starve to death for telling the truth about Peanut Corp of America. The food poisoning, this explosion, workers treated like slaves and min wage jobs I know does not like that there is a federal min wage) He is a disgusting man, and the families at the plant need to hold the state accountable.

  • NateBowman

    Funny how none of the families of those who died or were injured have complained about the cartoon.

    Could it possibly be that they can see that the cartoon, in fact, respects the death, pain and suffering by noting how needless it was?

    And that those who claim that the cartoon is disrespectful (and also call Mr. Ohman names or wish him ill) are the ones not respecting those who suffered in the explosion.

  • fetman80

    Now I see political cartoons from Texas itself taking the same side as Jack Ohman did about the lack of regulations leading to the West TX explosion. Rick Perry is trying to deflect blame, he reminds me of PG&E explaining the San Bruno gas pipeline explosion & fire.

  • Sue Rhodes Hedtke

    This idiot has loose regulations and low taxes mixed up. Making fertilizer is a dirty and very dangerous business….another big disaster in Texas….the Texas City Explosion was also started with a fire and explosion revolving around fertilizer. Insensitive is hardly the word to describe this guy…..Karma is a bitch Mr. Ohman….hope you don’t find yourself wanting to eat these very inappropriate words.

  • Katana_X

    There is no way to guarantee protection from terrorists. It is literally impossible, especially if you don’t want to give up your civil liberties and freedoms. For the most part, I can’t think of something the Boston police could have reasonably done before the race to prevent the attack. Failing to inspect a fertalizer plant (a known hazard) for decades and THEN having such lax zoning that you’d allow a school, a nursing home, and a residential district to be built across the street from it? Well, that’s a lot more clear cut.

  • JH

    Perry doesn’t have a leg to stand on in this argument. The cartoon says it all.

  • Lafollette

    We should hold up criticizing a murderous lack of standards out of respect for its victims? Would it be too early for you if we condemned the Triangle Shirtwaist Company?

  • Liam Bean

    There is no excuse for an exploding fertilizer factory, or have you not heard of the Texas City (also in Texas) Disaster? That “mishap” cost over 500 lives and it was also a fertilizer explosion. Get the idea that this is inexcusable now?

  • Guest

    Couldn’t he have waited until the 14 funerals in West were over?

  • jondaly

    the paper has apparently drawn a conclusion without the benefit of an investigation. while it might be appropriate to blame Boston police for lax security at the marathon, that conclusion is not yet justified by the known facts. all we know, at this point, is that two guys blew up a bomb killing lots of people. it would be unfair and insensitive to go beyond that.

    off course, it’s always fair in mediaville to attack conservative republicans. no need to hold your fire for them.

  • Andrew Kubik

    This cartoon is precisely the sort of reaction that inept and insufficient government safety regulation deserves and that’s exactly what happened in Texas. There’s no getting around it and those responsible should pay the price. An investigation would no doubt reveal plenty of private lobbying money and influence that led to diluted regulations. I think it’s still called POLITICAL CORRUPTION; good for Mr. Ohman !