AND WITH the satiric point of his pen, George Danby has fired back.
Danby is the Bangor Daily News cartoonist who often trains his editorial sights on Maine Gov. Paul LePage — and who recently was the target of the politician’s latest public salvo.
The governor was speaking at a Maine youth leadership function last week in the city of Waterville, when Nick Danby, during a Q&A back-and-forth, asked LePage what he thought of his cartoonist father, recounts the elder Danby. LePage reportedly replied that he’d like to shoot the cartoonist.
“The governor’s remarks, with my son in attendance at [Dirigo] Boys State in Waterville, Maine … came as no surprise to anyone following politics in the state,” Danby tells The Post’s Comic Riffs. “The governor continues to make ‘off-the-cuff’ remarks since the beginning of his first term.”
And often, the target of his verbal cuffing is the state’s print journalism. So how does this latest remark compare?
“The governor’s comment — ‘I don’t like his cartoons…I want to shoot him’ — was in very bad taste,” Danby tells The Post. “His office suggested the governor was just joking, which is fine. Except he could have said so many other things, in a joking manner, that didn’t involve a violent overtone.
“With recent gun violence and the recent murders of [Charlie Hebdo] cartoonists in France and elsewhere, the chief executive of the great state of Maine should know better,” Danby continues. “But, as with other questionable comments from the governor, apparently, no.”
— Anthony Ronzio (@Ronzio) June 25, 2015
So what would Danby’s return volley be? Well, as his thoughts and pen turned to the recent stories about impeachment, he replied with this cartoon, published over the weekend:
“The talk of impeachment has made its way to the front pages of our daily newspapers in the state because of other issues involving the governor … ,” Danby tells Comic Riffs, “so this played into Saturday’s drawing.”
Danby has not yet heard from LePage, but others have reacted. On Wednesday, Anthony Ronzio, news/audience director at the Daily News, tweeted his contempt:
Jokes about shooting someone aren't funny. Shooting cartoonists especially, post-Charlie Hedbo. It was shocking and tasteless. #mepolitics
— Anthony Ronzio (@Ronzio) June 25, 2015
And on Friday, the NewsGuild-CWA called the comments “shameful,” especially given that they were directed toward Danby’s teenage son. The organization stated in a news release: “The NewsGuild-CWA and our Maine local are sickened and appalled that any public official would make such a ‘joke’ in any context. To do so at a time when the nation is mourning a mass shooting, and in a year that began with the murder of cartoonists and other journalists at the satirical ‘Charlie Hebdo’ shows the worst possible judgment.”
NewsGuild-CWA asked that the governor “make a swift and sincere apology” to George and Nick Danby. “Further, he owes an apology to all journalists for suggesting that violence is the solution to unfavorable news coverage,” the release said. “Lastly, he should apologize to his state for once again embarrassing Maine on a national stage.”
Update: On Monday, the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists also called upon LePage to apologize, publicly, to Danby, calling the governor’s comments “absolutely reprehensible.” “In light of the recent assassination of 12 people, including five cartoonists, at the Charlie Hebdo newspaper in France, Gov. LePage’s remarks are beneath contempt,” the AAEC said in a statement. “Calling for the shooting of [a] newspaper cartoonist in this political environment by an elected official is unprecedented, and Gov. LePage sets a new low in political judgment and discourse. Danby himself noted that had he made a similar statement, he’d be arrested.”
LePage, of course, is well-known for shooting from the hip with blunt, sometimes vulgar remarks, whether he’s speaking to state senators (be they Democrats or fellow Republicans) or the NAACP. His slams at the press span years, including his 2013 comment while checking out a fighter-jet simulator, when he reportedly said: “I want to find the [Portland] Press Herald building and blow it up.”
Danby, for one, says he aims to keep his work within the lines of editorial fair play. “My cartoons of the governor keep within the boundaries of good taste,” the cartoonist says. “I’m always careful to comment on the issues at hand — never a personal attack on the governor.”