Nasty Editorial Cartoons Are Natural During Campaign Season

The Executive Editor of the Telegraph Herald (Dubuque IA), notes that most calls of complaints he gets from opinions on the editorial page is overwhelmingly about the editorial cartoons, but from a historical perspective, editorial cartoons have always been controversial.

“Newspaper cartoons that ridicule and vilify rival presidential candidates have been seriously criticized in the present campaign, but they are nothing new in American politics.”

Those words were spoken not during this campaign. Not the previous campaign. Not even this century.

I found the quotation in an old Chicago Daily News. It came from L.H. Stattuck, director of the Chicago Historical Society. The year was 1936. So, 71 years ago, a historian described tough editorial cartoons as “nothing new.”

If anything, today’s cartoons are tamer. Last year, on a visit to the Abraham Lincoln Presidential Library and Museum in Springfield, Ill., I toured an exhibit of various editorial cartoons, mostly from Confederate states, castigating the Great Emancipator. “Vilifying” did not begin to describe many of those depictions. (Meanwhile, in Northern newspapers, Jefferson Davis, president of the Confederacy, was the target. “He is shown as everything from a coward in women’s petticoats to a skulking hyena,” the Daily News noted.)

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