Choosing such a racially charged toothpaste flavor, noted Cohen in her explainer, was an innocent mistake. Herald cartoonist Jerry Holbert seized on “watermelon,” she writes, because that was the flavor of toothpaste used by his kids in his own house. “If only it had been bubblegum flavored. If only,” notes Cohen.
The “watermelon” scandalito had caused trouble at the Herald, Cohen writes. After a Herald politics reporter asked Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick about a report from the American Civil Liberties Union, the governor responded: “Is the Herald asking me a question about race? The Herald about race? I don’t think you want to do that.” Patrick later apologized to the reporter.
In any case, the cartoon in question never underwent scrutiny from a senior editor at the Herald, thanks to a misplacement of sorts: “Yes, a final page proof does go up to the 6th floor where a desk editor will read the editorials, make sure we haven’t made some obvious error of fact and in the event a topic has been overtaken by breaking news events will pick up the phone and advise me that we need an update. On the night in question — the night the cartoon appeared on a page proof, the proof was not left in the proper bin.”
Big mistake, small explanation. Or, as Cohen writes, “So there you have it. The remarkably simple way in which bad stuff can happen.”
Holbert has also apologized.