Nonprofessionals, of course, will often alter professional visual satirists’ work and push the retrofitted image out into the meme-stream of social media.
In this case, though, the doctored work of Varvel, the Indianapolis Star cartoonist, received a torrent of attention after Trump shared it — and the creator was blindsided.
“My cartoon in question was drawn in January and has been altered without my permission, which changed the message of my original work,” Varvel told The Washington Post’s Comic Riffs via email.
In his original cartoon, which ran just days before the inauguration, the Democratic donkey cannot hold back the momentum of the Trump Express. Varvel emphasized that his donkey is “resisting” Trump but is not being harmed by the powerful political train. “No cartoon donkeys were killed in the making of this cartoon,” he said.
In the doctored cartoon, however, the CNN logo has been superimposed over the donkey’s face and torso, and a caption has been added that reads: “Fake news can’t stop the Trump train.” Varvel’s name appears to have been cropped from the cartoon.
“We don’t know who altered Gary’s original cartoon but we’re looking into it,” Jeff Taylor, editor and vice president for news of the Indianapolis Star and IndyStar.com, said in a statement. “The cartoon was altered without anyone’s knowledge or permission at the Star.”
The Twitter user who shared the altered version, and whom Trump retweeted, @SLandinSoCal, has not replied to Post messages.
Trump deleted the retweet after it began to draw criticism in the wake of violence in Charlottesville over the weekend.
The president has shared other altered content involving CNN in the summer. Last month, he retweeted a GIF made from 2007 footage of his mock-wrestling and punching WWE Chairman Vince McMahon; the CNN logo was superimposed over McMahon.
The right-leaning Varvel, who has been the Star’s cartoonist since 1994, has received the RFK Award, the National Headliners Award and a National Cartoonists Society “Silver Reuben” Award.
Varvel’s most recent cartoon, published Monday in response to the tragedy in Charlottesville, depicts a wrecking ball leveling a monument to “hate.”