April 29, 2013

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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Joshua Gillin is a contributor to Poynter's MediaWire blog and a writer, editor and pop culture blogger for the Tampa Bay Times and its sister…
Joshua Gillin

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