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JEFF STAHLER SUSPENDED: Columbus Dispatch political cartoonist’s work probed over ‘striking similarity’ to New Yorker cartoon

On Monday morning, Columbus Dispatch editorial cartoonist Jeff Stahler posted this cartoon.

By late Monday afternoon, some in the comics community were struck by just how similar Stahler’s work seemed to this 2009 New Yorker gag cartoon by David Sipress.

Reached Monday evening by Comic Riffs, neither Stahler nor Sipress would comment on the similarity, although Stahler has said it was a coincidence.

By Tuesday, however, the Ohio newspaper had “suspended Jeff Stahler’s cartoon indefinitely until an exhaustive investigation can be conducted,” reports the Poynter website. Dispatch editor Ben Marrison told Poynter’s Steve Myers: “We take these allegations seriously.”

New Yorker Cartoon Editor Robert Mankoff told Comic Riffs on Monday, though, that he always gives the cartoonist the benefit of the doubt.

“My guess is Stahler came up with the idea completely independently,” Mankoff told Comic Riffs. “I see things like this every week with different cartoonists submitting almost identical cartoons. Sometimes we’ve been on the other end of this being accused of plagiarism, when I know the cartoonist would never do that.

“It’s also possible that Stahler saw the Sipress cartoon and forgot completely about it and then came up with the idea thinking it was his. That also has happened,” Mankoff continued Monday. “Usually when it does, a little bell goes off warning you something is wrong — but not always.”

The Daily Cartoonist’s Alan Gardner — who wrote that the Sipress and Stahler cartoons bore a “striking similarity” — says Stahler, a longtime Dispatch cartoonist, told him it was a “coincidence.”

In May, Jim Romenesko — then still working for Poynter — reported on humorist Andy Borowitz’s pointing to similarities between a satirical headline he wrote and a subsequent Stahler cartoon.

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