Herald-Leader’s Pett defends his cartoons
After 35 years of penning opinions, I’m the last person to try and silence yours. But I hope you’ll allow a response to your Nov. 1 editorial, “Pett’s cartoons on conservatives are racially offensive.”
Yes, I drew a cartoon suggesting that Donald Trump’s history of racism and divisiveness is being abetted by opportunistic political sycophants, including Daniel Cameron. I find it sad, despicable and incomprehensible and I tried to express that. (Though not with the derisive term “Uncle Tom” which you chose to use.)
I did, as editorial cartoons must, employ imagery. Maybe your editors know some better imagery than the Klan robes and burning crosses to suggest racism, but I don’t.
Your literal interpretation that I was suggesting Trump is an actual member of the Klan (“ ... without any proof … ”) was laughable. I trust it was a mere argumentative convenience and not an indication that you can’t process satire. (News flash: Alec Baldwin isn’t really our commander in chief!)
The second cartoon you mentioned, drawn nearly four years ago, was a response to Gov. Matt Bevin’s support of Trump’s “Muslim ban.” The governor’s adopted African children were referenced to show sympathy and compassion for refugees. They were not denigrated, merely used as extras in a political message, as they have been in Bevin campaign commercials. For that, Bevin was quick to label both me and the Lexington Herald-Leader “racist,” and right-wing radio unleashed a two-day e-barrage on nearly everyone associated with the paper that has had lasting consequences.
You’d be closer to doing your journalistic duty to actually publish hard-hitting cartoons and allow readers to make up their own minds about the messages. Sure, you’d get some angry callers and trolls, but you might be surprised at how the give-and-take of strong opinions, especially on hot-button topics, can make your paper’s editorial pages relevant, and a public conduit for bridging the cultural and political divides which you rightly lament.
I’m alarmed by the wildfire of these divides, too. But I’m pretty confident that the flames are being fanned, and the propellants poured on, by a steady stream of racially-charged policies and tweets from the president of the United States and his allies, not by what remains of the long and rich history of free, albeit often provocative, expression in newspaper editorial cartoons.
(Oh, and FYI, “wildfire” is only a metaphor. No need to send the hook-and-ladder trucks.)
– Pett is a cartoonist for the Lexington Herald-Leader.