IN APRIL, when Post political cartoonist Ann Telnaes was speaking at the Library of Congress, she told a packed room that she objected to red lines being imposed on her work. As a satirist, she said, “I don’t want the tools limited to me.” To surrender your weapons of artistic engagement, she underscored, was “a slippery slope.”
On Tuesday, a red line was drawn for her.
Her cartoon in question satirizes GOP presidential candidate Ted Cruz, and on the Post’s website, her post was headlined, “Ted Cruz uses his kids as political props.” Telnaes’s animation, published Tuesday, was in response to Cruz’s new, Christmas-season “infomercial parody” campaign ad, in which the candidate’s two young daughters appear:
To Telnaes, that ad rendered it appropriate and germane to include Cruz’s children in an editorial cartoon in response, so she depicted Cruz as an organ-grinder Santa, and his daughters as dancing monkeys.
Ted Cruz has put his children in a political ad- don't start screaming when editorial cartoonists draw them as well. https://t.co/7hafBacOiK
— Ann Telnaes (@AnnTelnaes) December 22, 2015
That cartoon drew the ire of Cruz, who blasted back over the cartoon’s inclusion of his kids — typically, of course, a line that the mainstream media does not cross. (Cruz also tweeted out the cartoon with his reaction.) Telnaes acknowledged that the children of politicians are typically off-limits, but wrote that the ad — in which “his eldest daughter read (with her father’s dramatic flourish) a passage of an edited Christmas classic” — made a depiction of the daughters “fair game.”
By Tuesday evening, Fred Hiatt, The Post’s editorial page editor, chose to remove the cartoon, explaining in an editor’s note that “it’s generally the policy of our editorial section to leave children out of it.”
“I understand why Ann thought an exception to the policy was warranted in this case,” Hiatt wrote, “but I do not agree.”
By Tuesday evening, the animated cartoon was disappeared from the online post. “I decided that we should not have published this cartoon,” Hiatt told The Post’s Comic Riffs on Tuesday, “and I decided to take it down.” (Hiatt, in his statement, acknowledged that he “failed to look at this cartoon before it was published.”)
Some readers voice support of the Pulitzer-winning Telnaes, while others agree with Hiatt’s decision, with some of those critics contending that the cartoon is racist or applies a double standard compared with prominent children of Democratic politicians. Among those who tweeted their support of Cruz were fellow candidates Marco Rubio and Donald Trump.
So what’s your view: Would you publish such a cartoon on your editorial pages?
Comic Riffs welcomes your comments below.