Marc Murphy knows he has, at the most, a couple of seconds to grab his audience. He said he makes the most of those moments.
During the day, Murphy is a partner at Louisville law firm Stites & Harbison, where he chairs the White Collar Practice Group, according to the firm’s website.
During the evening, however, Murphy’s job of six years has often infuriated politicians, resulting in death threats and a Pulitzer Prize nomination.
Murphy is a part-time editorial cartoonist for the Courier-Journal in Louisville and, after work each evening, he sits down at his iPad and draws a one panel cartoon. Murphy spoke Thursday evening at Barnes & Noble Booksellers in Bowling Green as part of the Western Kentucky University Libraries “Kentucky Live!” lecture series.
Murphy said simplicity is what he strives for, using well-known symbols and few words to convey his message. Of the thousands of cartoons that he’s submitted to the Louisville paper for publication, only four have been turned down, and he showed two of the rejects to his audience.
The first cartoon rejected was drawn at the height of talk that Democrat actress Ashley Judd would face off against U.S. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the upcoming U.S. Senate race. Taking off on Judd’s famous pose in a sports jersey and little else, Murphy drew a leggy McConnell sitting in a sports jersey, noting he was “Fighting Fire with Fire.”
The second panel rejected was a dig at Bowling Green’s Republican state Sen. Mike Wilson, chairman of the state Senate Education Committee, and Wilson’s involvement with a Christian radio station and a belief in creationism while involved in discussions about the state’s new science standards. Murphy said the series of monkeys that he drew to depict “The evolution of Mike Wilson,” was off-putting to the newspaper’s editors, and they decided not to print the cartoon.
Murphy received death threats following publication of an editorial cartoon in the aftermath of a two-year-old girl being killed by a “My First Rifle” obtained by a sibling. Murphy drew an autopsy report and noted the child’s cause of death was “Greed, Ignorance, Political Cowardice, Misplaced Cultural Pride,” and “Inevitability.”
“I knew it was hard-hitting,” Murphy said. “I received death threats. For the first time since I’ve been associated with the paper, they took (the cartoon) off the website. Apparently, there were a series of ‘wanted’ posters of me.
“I could have left off the blood (on the drawing), but that’s the first place you looked,” he said while the controversial editorial cartoon was projected on a screen at the bookstore.
Murphy, a native of Ashland who graduated from Notre Dame and the University of Louisville Brandeis School of Law, spent four years as an officer in Germany and Central America – where he was attached to the Special Forces in Panama. He has also been commonwealth’s attorney in Louisville.
When he was being considered for the post of U.S. attorney for the Western District by U.S. Rep. John Yarmuth, D-Louisville, it was McConnell, Murphy said, who didn’t want the appointment to go through. “I am not going to select a man who draws me in a cheerleader outfit,” Murphy said he was told of McConnell’s reaction when Yarmuth brought up the idea.
Murphy said politicians complain when his pen captures them, but eventually a staffer of the lawmaker will contact him later to see if an original of the cartoon can be obtained.
“McConnell’s got cartoons of mine hanging on his walls,” Murphy said. The cartoonist said when he picks a subject to lampoon, it is a process of “legitimizing” the politician.
Murphy will tackle national subjects in addition to Kentucky issues. “Part of what I have to do is put my finger on the pop culture,” he said, then relate it to an issue everyone is talking about. “It’s like a puzzle that has to be solved every night.”