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An open letter from Mike Lester

Dear Fellow Professional Cartoonists:

Thanks to all of you who’ve written and please accept my gratitude for your concern. I don’t do self-pity any better than I do humble (or battery) so forgive me if I just do “human”. Of course I would have preferred the incident not to have happened and to not be in the news at all. But while I would have also preferred not to be posted on dailycartoonist.com, I understand, I have no ill feelings and I can take it.

To the credit of the posts, I was impressed that little or no judgement was passed. I was impressed. Thank you. You all did better than the President in the Cambridge affair.

Best,
ML
Mike Lester

Community Comments

#1 Shane Davis
August/24/2009
@ 5:00 pm

Mr. Lester,

While I’m not a professional cartoonist, it’s easy to see this is a tough spot to be in.

But you strike me as the kind of guy who can take it and see it through. I’ve read a lot of your editorials and I like your stuff a lot – takes some guts to hang some of those meatballs out like you do!

I hope it turns out well and soon for you. Heaven knows we need work like yours now more that ever! ;)

#2 Pat Crowley
August/24/2009
@ 5:18 pm

I’ve always meant to write you a fan letter.

This too shall pass. Don’t let it alter your effectiveness as a cartoonist. Don’t lose your edge or your sense of humor.

Hopefully you’ll get things smoothed out on the home front and move forward.

Hang in there- I’ve seen a whole lot worse in this business.

#3 mike crachiolo
August/24/2009
@ 7:34 pm

BUDDHA SAID WE WILL NOT BE PUNISHED FOR OUR ANGER BUT BY OUR ANGER

#4 Sally Weston
August/24/2009
@ 8:07 pm

I think this is a very polite letter but it is meaningless. He says he wishes the incident hadn’t happened and that it wasn’t in the news. But he doesn’t say he’s sorry it happened, or take responsibility for what he did.

#5 Mark_Tatulli
August/24/2009
@ 8:54 pm

Well, the reality is we don’t know what he did and what happened and it’s really none of our business. It has nothing to do with cartooning. He just happens to be a cartoonist.

#6 Shane Davis
August/24/2009
@ 9:08 pm

@ Sally,
You don’t have all the information& you don’t know what happened.

I’d be careful about demanding that people confess their sins to you when you don’t even have all the facts – facts that aren’t even any of your business.

Perhaps if you went first and spilled in great detail some embarrassing secret sin or revealed a humiliating gaffe of yours out here for all to see, then make obsequious apologies for your mistakes.

Why not do that first before making a snide post like that again…

#7 Dave Stephens
August/24/2009
@ 10:07 pm

Stuff happens. People drink. More stuff happens and some stuff makes it in the newspapers and on this blog – go figure!

And Sally – he didn’t write what you would have written, did he? Strange, isn’t it? But I liked what he said. And any more is definitely NOT any of my business…

#8 KRANKY (JOE RANK)
August/24/2009
@ 10:11 pm

Karma happens!

#9 Brendan Goold
August/25/2009
@ 1:30 am

I will back Sally up, this doesn’t appear to be an apology.

While on the surface Mike seems to be admitting wrong, he is also implicating more people in his crime and taking a cheap shot at the President. That isn’t a particularly respectable way to apologize.

The truth is that while too many women are subject to violence in this country, it isn’t something that “just happens” and for Mike Lester to say he has no ill feelings and wishes this wasn’t reported he is avoiding the media attention he has been so happy to focus on other public figures in his career as a cartoonist.

Rather than admitting any responsibility, like someone who was sorry and prepared for the consequences of his actions, Mike Lester has effectively wished that nothing happened and implied that everyone is as bad at life as he is. It’s cowardly, especially coming from someone who makes a living attacking people, and he should be prepared to face real consequences not wish away his problems.

#10 Mike Peterson
August/25/2009
@ 3:51 am

“These bloodless brides of Christ, if they had just once glimpsed their groom, then they’d drop the stones concealed behind their rosary beads.” — Joni Mitchell

As someone who has been through the marital distress thrill ride, I find nothing wrong with wishing certain things hadn’t happened. I also would note that my ex and I get along pretty well these days and that I reserve my contempt and ill-will about that dark time for the busy-bodies and onlookers who thought they knew what we were going through and were anxious to apply the “good” and “bad” labels to us. (Usually based on their own unresolved experiences and certainly not on ours.)

It’s a helluva lot more complex than a cartoon, or a Lifetime movie. As the saying goes, “Never miss a good chance to shut up.”

#11 Henry Clausner
August/25/2009
@ 7:00 am

Unfortunately,I can see this getting a lot of reaction…Mr Lester.
Let’s move on guys and leave him alone now…

#12 Steve Skelton
August/25/2009
@ 7:09 am

Brendan and Sally, why does he owe you an apology??? How bizarre that you think Mike Lester owes you an apology.

#13 Ted Dawson
August/25/2009
@ 7:40 am

Sally and Brendan, at least consider that this case probably hasn’t gone before a judge yet.

#14 Ed Simmons
August/25/2009
@ 7:55 am

“I may be accused of pushing my wife into a wall, but I’m no Obama”

#15 Wiley Miller
August/25/2009
@ 8:31 am

Well, so much for the absence of moral grandstanding here.

#16 chet brinko
August/25/2009
@ 8:57 am

as a non-wife-beater, who am i to take the high ground and parade my morals around on display? perhaps i am the one who should be ashamed.

#17 Phil Wohlrab
August/25/2009
@ 9:53 am

ugly vulchers.. the lot of you.

#18 Wiley Miller
August/25/2009
@ 9:56 am

So to sum up, Chet, you weren’t there, you don’t have all the facts of what happened, and you don’t anyone who was there or has all the facts and circumstances… yet somehow you feel morally superior in passing judgement?

Thank you for providing a prime example of why this matter should never have been posted here in the first place.

#19 Lindsay Beyerstein
August/25/2009
@ 10:06 am

Everyone is innocent until proven guilty. So, Lester gets the same forbearance as anyone else charged with a crime.

That said, there’s nothing “private” about what he’s alleged to have done. If he attacked a guest in his house, people wouldn’t be dismissing it as a private matter. Everyone would recognize it as a crime. But because he hurt his wife, people are downplaying the seriousness of the charges. This dismissive attitude is a throwback to back to the dark ages when wives were considered the property of their husbands.

#20 mike witmer
August/25/2009
@ 10:09 am

God bless Chet and everyone else who lives in a glass house.

#21 Mike Beckom
August/25/2009
@ 12:03 pm

…..now I’m sure of it and the invites won’t be long in arriving so I’m gonna go ahead and call it…..

KEGGER AT THE WHITE HOUSE!!!!!

#22 Alan Gardner
August/25/2009
@ 12:05 pm

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**** PLEASE NOTE ****
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I’ve had to delete a couple of comments in the last hour. If there is a particularly nasty comment – PLEASE don’t engage that person. I will come through and delete any comments that violate the rules or are using fake names. If such comments continue, the thread will be closed.

Alan,
TDC Editor

#23 John Cole
August/25/2009
@ 1:37 pm

Comment Boards are Reason No. 2 why I often wish I could un-invent the Internet, right behind the “You Now Must Give Work Away For Free” mantra.

At least Alan’s no-anonymity rule keeps the postings relatively sane and on-topic.

#24 J Read
August/25/2009
@ 2:23 pm

John (#26), I’m not sure the alleged full names credited for some of the posts are even real (Alan, how is this verified without a link?), and there have certainly been plenty of insane and off-topic comments made here lately!

#25 J Read
August/25/2009
@ 2:26 pm

And is it just me, or is it hard to take serious the comments of people who cannot spell (and I’m not referring to typos here) or punctuate their sentences? I get a gut reaction about the person posting such a comment, and usually skip their rant.

#26 Phil Wohlrab
August/25/2009
@ 3:15 pm

J Read.. i know i spelled vultures wrong.

#27 Dave Stephens
August/25/2009
@ 3:27 pm

Ignorant people will always rant ignorantly – it’s easy to pontificate when your brain cannot reciprocate… LOL

Would any one here claim to be a better artist than an artist who’s work you’ve never seen? That would be insanely stupid and arrogant, right? But if you read in a blog that an artist made some bad art, suddenly you know for SURE he’s a bad artist? WTF??!!

Moral grandstanding is the number one internet sport – stones fly endlessly from infinite glass houses, forever and ever, amen…

#28 Terrence Nowicki, Jr.
August/25/2009
@ 3:37 pm

I had hoped that this incident would prove to be a transformative experience for Mr. Lester. Disregarding questions of his guilt or innocence, his cartoons often carry an attitude of smug superiority with which they could do without, so I thought a run-in with the law and his own humanity might be humbling enough to change how he sees things from now on. However, from this letter, it appears that the only thing he’s learned is that many of his friends and professional associations will defend him no matter what he does, thus removing an important incentive for him to change his behavior, attitude, or self-image if he ever makes a mistake. Drawing parallels between the Skip Gates affair and this one is ludicrous nonsense, and demeaning to victims of domestic abuse, which indicates to me that nothing for him has changed.

Wileyâ??you point out that it’s not our place to judge Mr. Lester because we “weren’t there” and we “don’t have all the facts.” You apparently forget that editorial cartoonists, including Mr. Lester himself, frequently make such leaps of judgment when commenting on current events, deriding the actions or beliefs of broad groups of people, or viciously mocking the reported misdeeds (and sometimes personal lives) of public figures.

Are you suggesting that we limit our commentary to events we were there to witness in person? Or are you suggesting that our personal standards for dealing with one another should exceed our professional standards? In most lines of work, that would be an inversion of common senseâ??maybe that isn’t so in this one, but even assuming that, sheltering one another from criticism instead of playing by the same rules we would apply to our editorial targets is hypocritical and irresponsible. We shouldn’t play favorites with our criticism just because somebody happens to be our friend.

Your argument the other day that Mr. Lester is not a “moral crusader” is demonstrably false. As another commenter pointed out in the previous discussion, moral judgments are an intrinsic part of editorial cartoons, and Mr. Lester often makes them with regard to “family values” topics like abortion and gay rights all the time. That is his public persona, and if his private persona differs then it just goes to show that something about his cartooning method needs to change until the two are more closely aligned, that he needs to learn something from this as I mentioned above.

Your compassion in this case is misdirected. It belongs with the victim, not the accused, so if you’re going to urge deferment, do it for her sake, not his.

#29 Terrence Nowicki, Jr.
August/25/2009
@ 3:46 pm

By the way, I want to thank Alan, both for giving Lester the opportunity to redeem himself, and for giving everybody else the chance to discuss this topic further. As I hope I already conveyed, this incident serves to highlight an attitude among editorial cartoonists (and perhaps cartoonists in general) of sheltering one another from criticism which I feel ought to be publicly discussed.

#30 Stephanie McMillan
August/25/2009
@ 4:00 pm

Lindsay, thank you. You’ve expressed (more clearly than I could) exactly what I wanted to say.

To call attacking a woman a “private matter” encourages those who feel entitled to use physical force to control their partners. It does not serve to put an end to domestic violence.

If instead of Mike, Regan were the cartoonist everyone here knew — or if we read in the news that any woman we know and care about was grabbed and shoved into a wall — I doubt anyone would argue that we should ignore it and call it private business. I hope not, anyway.

Why aren’t those who are so supportive of Mike, offering sympathy and support to Regan?

#31 Mike Peterson
August/25/2009
@ 4:47 pm

I will continue to disagree (in a friendly manner) with Wiley on the topic of whether all news about cartoonists should be reported, but I certainly agree with John Cole about the drawbacks of comment boards.

I don’t know, Alan, where I would draw the line, where I would say, “Post the story but don’t enable the comments.” A news item that a cartoonist is fighting cancer, for instance, doesn’t need debate, but the item might draw some constructive comments about other people who have been through something similar. However, I don’t think there’s any intelligent “response” to what Mike wrote beyond “sorry you guys are having problems.”

And I believe the comments here are proof of that.

#32 Wiley Miller
August/25/2009
@ 4:47 pm

It would appear that there are some here who don’t understand not condemning something does NOT equate condoning or dismissing it. And not passing judgement on something does NOT equate support. It simply means I’m not going to jump to absolute judgments on something when I don’t have the facts.

And trying to compare this to what we do as cartoonists is misplaced, to say the least. Nor has Mike been accused of being a “wife beater”. That sanctimonious comment was truly vile.

I should also point out that you are not going to find a more strident supporter of women’s rights than me… and I have a ton of hate mail over the years from men to prove it… along with commendations from women readers and women’s organizations. Just keep in mind that reserving judgement is not downplaying the matter or being sympathetic.

#33 Wiley Miller
August/25/2009
@ 4:53 pm

“I will continue to disagree (in a friendly manner) with Wiley on the topic of whether all news about cartoonists should be reported…”

Looks like we posted at the exact same time, Mike.
But you misstated what I said, quite badly. I know you’re a better reporter/editor than that. I never said, or even hinted at, that “ALL” news about cartoonists shouldn’t be reported. I said THIS item shouldn’t have been posted here for discussion. I think you’ll agree there is a huge difference there, which goes to directly to your agreement with John Cole regarding the drawbacks of message boards. That’s precisely my point.

#34 Mike Peterson
August/25/2009
@ 5:29 pm

“I never said, or even hinted at, that â??ALLâ? news about cartoonists shouldnâ??t be reported. I said THIS item shouldnâ??t have been posted here for discussion.”

Reported here, yes. Posted here for discussion, no.

I think Alan’s mission of reporting news is different than that of, say, ToonTalk, which is much more about talking shop. He puts news about the industry and its people up here — that’s the mission, and he also encourages give-and-take, in a civilized atmosphere.

How he does it is, of course, his deal. I’d hate to see it become a site like Huffington Post in which the”news” is whatever interests and delights a small clique of the administrator’s buddies and their groupies, but I’d also hate to see it turn into the “we report everything, you shut up and read it” format of E&P.

It’s not an easy line to walk and, for the most part, he does a helluva job. Sorry, Alan: a “heckuva” job.

#35 Dave Stephens
August/25/2009
@ 5:36 pm

—I had hoped that this incident would prove to be a transformative experience for Mr. Lester.—

Wow – now there’s some arrogance! Like Mr. Lester needs to “transform” himself to make you happy – ooooooh, look! A butterfly!”

—Disregarding questions of his guilt or innocence, (HA! If he’s innocent, why does he need to “transform”? ) his cartoons often carry an attitude of smug superiority with which they could do without, so I thought a run-in with the law and his own humanity might be humbling enough to change how he sees things from now on.—

What, he was removed from his humanity before this? What are you getting at – that he’s a *choke *gasp! Conservative? Your smug superiority is superior to Mr. Lester’s, right? LOL

—However, from this letter, it appears that the only thing heâ??s learned is that many of his friends and professional associations will defend him no matter what he does, thus removing an important incentive for him to change his behavior, attitude, or self-image if he ever makes a mistake.—

You got all that from his letter? Holy cow, tell us more!

—Drawing parallels between the Skip Gates affair and this one is ludicrous nonsense, and demeaning to victims of domestic abuse, which indicates to me that nothing for him has changed.—

You are definitely an expert on ludicrous nonsense, I agree with that. “Demeaning to victims of domestic abuse” – wow, way to disregard ‘guilt or innocence’, hmm?

—Your argument the other day that Mr. Lester is not a â??moral crusaderâ? is demonstrably false. As another commenter pointed out in the previous discussion, moral judgments are an intrinsic part of editorial cartoons, and Mr. Lester often makes them with regard to â??family valuesâ? topics like abortion and gay rights all the time.—

So, anyone with a pen and an opinion is a “moral crusader”, right? So, uh, you mean anyone who ever published an opinion is a “moral crusader”? News to me. And wrong. And demonstrably foolish to call Mr. Lester that.

—That is his public persona, and if his private persona differs then it just goes to show that something about his cartooning method needs to change until the two are more closely aligned, that he needs to learn something from this as I mentioned above..—

No, it goes to show YOU are demanding some foolish stuff as you wag your judgmental finger and pontificate about what a bad, bad person Mr. Lester is. The only “moral crusader” I see is YOU.

#36 Abell Smith
August/25/2009
@ 5:46 pm

I wanted to be sympathetic to Mike for having all this publicized… but seriously, a political statement in his first comments on DC about the incident? No matter how much I hated Bush, I believe if I was in that much hot water, I’d try to tread lightly and be a bit more contrite. Mike, you might want to stow that old familiar Lester shtick for the time-being… just a PR suggestion…

#37 Tom Wood
August/25/2009
@ 6:34 pm

I had hoped that this incident would prove to be a transformative experience for Mr. Lester. Disregarding questions of his guilt or innocence, his cartoons often carry an attitude of smug superiority with which they could do without, so I thought a run-in with the law and his own humanity might be humbling enough to change how he sees things from now on.

No, no, no. Just because you disagree with someone politically does not mean it would be a good thing to hope that a personal tragedy would muzzle them, or, worse, change them to your way of thinking. The very next step is the fabrication of personal tragedies in order to silence voices we don’t like to hear.

I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it. ~Voltaire

And a few others: http://www.quotegarden.com/censorship.html

#38 Terrence Nowicki, Jr.
August/25/2009
@ 7:20 pm

/Wow â?? now thereâ??s some arrogance! Like Mr. Lester needs to â??transformâ? himself to make you happy â?? ooooooh, look! A butterfly!â?/

He doesn’t need to do it for me. He doesn’t “need” to do it at all. As a person who is widely distributed and has the potential to influence people, I feel he /should/ do it for his audience, as well as himself.

He says in his letter that he doesn’t “do” humble. That’s something I feel should change. For most people, being arrested for domestic violence is (or at least ought to be) a humbling experience, and if anything good can possibly come out of that, it’s a reflection both on one’s own faults and vulnerabilities, and on what other people have to go through when they are arrested. I just think he could get a more nuanced worldview out of all this, provided he isn’t too stubborn.

/HA! If heâ??s innocent, why does he need to â??transformâ??/

Don’t be so willfully obtuse. I was talking about his attitude in general, rather than the crime of which he stands accused.

/What, he was removed from his humanity before this? What are you getting at â?? that heâ??s a *choke *gasp! Conservative?/

Only if torture apologism is the exclusive realm of Conservatives.

Seriously, though, he pretty unapologetically dehumanizes people he disagrees with, or doesn’t like, or doesn’t understand all the time. Sometimes the only way to get a person to cut back on that is for them to get a reminder of their own humanity, which is not to say that he deserved one such as this, but rather that since it happened anyway, he could at least make the best of it and learn something positive.

/You got all that from his letter? Holy cow, tell us more!/

If his letter existed in a vacuum, your criticism might be valid. However, it exists in the context of his work, so I got all that from the combination of those items.

/â??Demeaning to victims of domestic abuseâ? â?? wow, way to disregard â??guilt or innocenceâ??, hmm?/

Again, I believe you’re confused. I was commenting on Lester’s careless comparison of this situation with another situation to which it is only comparable if he was wrongfully arrested. Whether he is guilty or innocent, bringing up the President’s response to the Cambridge thing is useless political grandstanding that does nothing in this conversation but belittle the seriousness of domestic violence.

/So, anyone with a pen and an opinion is a â??moral crusaderâ?, right? So, uh, you mean anyone who ever published an opinion is a â??moral crusaderâ??/

If the topic is significantly charged, absolutely. Lester pursues abortion and gay marriage as topics of his cartoons almost feverishly, and assessing right and wrong is necessary to advance a strong opinion on either of those.

Pull up his archive, look at all the cartoons he’s done on those topics in addition to the ones he’s done attacking the personal lives of public figures with whom he has a bone to pick. He is a moral crusader, and his work history is all the evidence I need to say so.

/No, it goes to show YOU are demanding some foolish stuff as you wag your judgmental finger and pontificate about what a bad, bad person Mr. Lester is. The only â??moral crusaderâ? I see is YOU./

Fair enough, but nobody said I wasn’t, did they?

#39 Shane Davis
August/25/2009
@ 8:30 pm

This is getting sick. This is turning into competitive bloodsport.

I don’t give a rat’s @$$ who makes the best ‘case’ about whether he should apologize or not. It doesn’t matter.

Editorial cartoons are aimed at publically elected officials who enter the political arena at their own risk. Cartoonists do not. They are no different than movie critics. They are paid to give an opinion from their point of view.

Politicians aren’t in that catagory. The ASK to be in that arena and get PAID very well in salary, inside information, benefits, perks and power to make decisions FOR YOU that you often can do NOTHING about. They deserve all the acid any editorial cartoonist pours on their collective heads.

Cartoonists do NOT have that kind of power and are not at that level nor have that power and do not rise to that level of accountabilty. So demanding Mr. Lester be treated in the same manner as a poltician is a straw man argument, a thinly disguised excuse to attack a person you disagree with.

If you don’t like Lester’s stuff, don’t read it. You don’t like Dr. Phil’s advice? Turn the channel. You don’t like U2’s philosophy? Go listen to the Stones. You don’t like Tenales, Ramirez, Oliphant, Peters? Fine read another part of the paper.

But DON’T use a private, humiliating family issue as an excuse to crucify a guy just because you don’t like his politics. That’s as sleazy, self centered, petty and vicious as politics can get. It’s disgusting.

This is only going to get more personal as the debate grows more intense – knives are only going to get sharper. What could possible be said after the last several, several comments that will be new or constructive?

I sincerely hope this thread ends very quickly.

#40 Alan Gardner
August/25/2009
@ 10:06 pm

I think one day is about enough for everything to be said about this. Thanks all for a mostly civil discussion.

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