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AAEC responds to Perry attack on Jack Ohman cartoon

Controversial cartoon by Jack Ohman

Last week, Texas Governor Rick Perry wrote a letter to the editor of the Sacramento Bee demanding an apology from the paper for running a Jack Ohman cartoon depicting Perry boasting of booming business followed by a depiction of an explosion. The governor claimed it was “mocking the tragic deaths” of those who died in the explosion. The newspaper and Ohman responded that it was due to lax regulations that the governor boasted of that led the explosion.

The Association of American Editorial Cartoonists has released a statement charging that Texas Governor Rick Perry, as a government official, is trying to suppress critical free speech on such a weighty issue – something that should not be tolerated in a free society.

Here’s the AAEC statement:

The AAEC firmly stands behind Jack Ohman and his powerful cartoon on the tragedy in West, Texas. The Ohman cartoon represents the finest traditions of both American political cartooning and our freedom of the press. On the other hand the Texas governor’s response demanding a retraction and an apology, represents the worst impulses of those who have no respect for our most basic and fundamental right to free speech. Governor Perry attacking the cartoonist is the kind of reaction we’d expect from a leader in North Korea, not one from Texas.

The attempt to intimidate a journalist for being critical of the government, particularly the call on the part of the Texas Lt. Governor to have him lose his job, is what should be condemned. This sort of intimidation of journalists is, at its root, just plain un-American.

Community Comments

#1 Clay Jones
@ 1:49 pm

Great cartoon by Ohman. Lousy response by the AAEC.

A reaction from a government like North Korea would be where you never heard from the cartoonist ever again. Not an angry letter from a ridiculous governor.

People have a right to complain in America, even those we elect. They even have the right to make stupid demands for those to be fired who we disagree with. I know enough private citizens do that.

A letter from a high profile elected official is not intimidation. For a political cartoonist that’s an accomplishment. Congratulations, Jack.

The AAEC needs to find other ways to prove their relevancy than writing responses over shrug worthy moments.

#2 Matt Wuerker
@ 2:39 pm

Way to stand shoulder to shoulder with your comrade there, Clay.

Perry’s comment and the call for him to be fired (by the Texas Lt Governor) have unleashed a lynch mob. Ohman has been getting all sorts of attacks in the media and beyond that personal threats.

This is exactly the sort of situation the AAEC is its most useful and it’s most relevant.

#3 Dave Stephens
@ 2:57 pm

Ohman has vast knowledge and experience and therefore he MUST have known that his cartoon could easily be seen as belittling the deaths in West. So he must have predicted the lynch mob, imho…

#4 Mike Peterson
@ 3:29 pm

Jack’s cartoon made a salient political point: The irresponsibility of bragging about lack of rules and regulations in order to attract business, and the sad grace note sounded when an uninspected factory subsequently touches off a tragedy.

As noted on my blog the other day, any response to Governor Perry that goes on for more than two words is unnecessarily verbose.

#5 Donald Rex Jr.
@ 3:30 pm

Which was the tragedy? The deaths or a decade of Perry selling out worker protections? It seems clear which Ohman’s cartoon addresses.

#6 Jen Sorensen
@ 4:36 pm

Merely by tweeting my support of Ohman, I have attracted several Twitter trolls accusing me of not caring about the deaths of first responders. I find this interpretation bizarre and unexpected, and I’ve been drawing political cartoons for a pretty long time. Alas, it’s probably nothing compared to the flak Jack’s getting.

#7 Paul Fell
@ 5:35 pm

While I agree that Jack did a great job with the Perry cartoon, the simple fact is he’s just doing what an editorial cartoonist is supposed to do. That’s something a lot of those who profess to be journalists have long ago forgotten.

What really pleases me is that one of the few full-time staff cartoonists left in the profession has a newspaper that actually backs him up. Kudos to the Sacramento Bee.

#8 Rick Hudson
@ 8:26 pm

Poor old Jack. He’s getting his just dues for exploiting the deaths of innocent people to further his political agenda. How noble of him. Actions have consequences.

#9 Donald Rex Jr.
@ 9:53 pm

“He?s getting his just dues for exploiting the deaths of innocent people to further his political agenda. How noble of him. Actions have consequences.”

I completely agree wth Rick Hudson for pointing out so clearly that Ohmann’s cartoon depicts Rick Perry’s agenda and actions that promise to turn Texas BLUE in future elections.

#10 Dan Collins
@ 8:41 am

“Actions have consequences.? “political agenda”? Those words seem to flow especially easily from those obsessively driven by their own political “agendas”.

#11 Mike Lester
@ 8:58 am

Rick Perry has the same right to foolishly demand a retraction as Jack Ohman has the right to publish a foolish cartoon. At least Jack only put out one version of it.

#12 John Cole
@ 10:19 am

The only conceivable apology should be, “I’m sorry you don’t understand cartoons.”

#13 Jeff Darcy
@ 12:03 pm

Wonder if Perry demanded an apology from Pat Bagley who had
drawn a cartoon days prior to Ohman’s with the same

I’m expecting cartoonist will be banned in Perry’s future
Texas Republic.

#14 James Van Hise
@ 12:58 pm

Why isn’t Governor Perry taking responsibility for the lack of government oversight which led to this explosion instead of complaining about a cartoon which pointed it out? There was so much explosive fertilizer stored there that the Department of Homeland Security was supposed to have been notified because it was thousands of times above the legal limit.

#15 Brian Fairrington
@ 2:36 pm

Did a Texas paper run it? Did Perry read it online? If not, what was the Gov. of Texas doing reading the Sac Bee?

#16 Rick Hudson
@ 3:17 pm

Brian, the internet is available in Texas and I’m sure my people that saw it, who were offended, brought it to Perry’s attention. Editorial cartoonists can dish it out, but certainly can’t take it. #thinskin

#17 Terry LaBan
@ 3:18 pm

An elected official, particularly a governor, denouncing a cartoonist is different from an average citizen doing it. A governor has behind him the power of the state, and, one supposes, numerous ways to put pressure on, if not the cartoonist, then the paper running the cartoon. The Sacramento Bee is probably beyond Rick Perry’s sphere of influence, but still. That being said, anyone who thinks the cartoon is “exploiting” the tragedy is either an idiot or or making excuses for their own policy failures. Well done, Jack.

#18 John Cole
@ 3:40 pm

Rick: Cartoonists are indeed capable of “dishing it out and taking it.” That “it” does not include personal threats, however.

#19 T. Brian Kelly
@ 8:46 pm

Outstanding cartoon Mr. Ohman. Typical peabrained bully response Mr. Perry.

#20 Rick Hudson
@ 9:29 pm

Interesting to see the liberal cartoonists circle the wagons around their hero. To hell with the dead and offended. This is a prime example of why the general public hates the media. No shame, no responsibility, no ethics.

#21 Donald Rex Jr.
@ 10:53 pm

“Interesting to see the liberal cartoonists circle the wagons around their hero. To hell with the dead and offended. This is a prime example of why the general public hates the media. No shame, no responsibility, no ethics”

Inexplicable how Rick Hudson and his ilk are upset about the cartoonists, but attach no guilt or ethical lapse or even remote responsaibility to Rick Perry whose direct decisions and actions killed those first responders in West.

My condolences to the dead. To hell with the fools offended by the truth expressed in Mr. Ohman’s cartoon (for example that Rick Hudson guy, is he for real or a tool invented by Fox News and the NRA?).

Are tools even conscious of being used?

#22 George Schwarz
@ 7:42 am

Here is the editorial I wrote about this:

Gov. Rick Perry is upset that The Sacramento Bee has used an editorial cartoon to skewer his business regulation policies. So reports The Houston Chronicle, and other outlets, Saturday morning.

The Chronicle reports that Perry wrote the Bee telling the newspaper he was disgusted. Perry claimed he welcomes healthy public policy debate but ?won?t stand? for mocking the tragedy in West, Texas. He just confirms what we know: Perry embarrasses intelligent Texans. Perry no more welcomes healthy debate than he has the power to censor a newspaper, a medium which, by the way, he shunned by stonewalling editorial boards across Texas in his last run for governor.

Perry and his sidekick, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, have called for Sac Bee cartoonist Jack Ohman?s dismissal. The newspaper?s editorial page editor, Stuart Leavenworth, has rightfully rejected the dumb demands of these two pieces of political purulence. And in doing so Leavenworth has schooled these two Texans in the First Amendment, although understanding our Constitution may be above Perry?s level of intelligence. In addition, Leavenworth?s response and Ohman?s cartoon point to Perry?s, Dewhurst?s and the Republican Party?s support of dangerous industries run amok.

?What he (Ohman) finds offensive is a governor who would gamble with the lives of families by not pushing for the strongest safety regulations. Perry’s letter is an attempt to distract people from that message,? Leavenworth said.

The record of assaults against the environment by industries that Perry and his pals have given free reign is astonishing and, if examined, would show that the deaths and injuries in West aren?t the first blood on their hands. Their continual attacks on the federal regulations ? rules designed to protect people from these kinds of tragedies ? are reliably aided and abetted by Prince-in-Waiting Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott. Abbott is quick to spend public money to sue the feds in order to protect industry and big GOP contributors. It matters not a whit that others without money or voice are protected. The political leadership of this troika makes the message of the cartoon more than relevant. The message is important and spot on.

Thank you, Jack Ohman, for saying what many of us are thinking.

#23 Jim Lavery
@ 8:10 am

Not living in Texas, I don’t know the veracity of the charges being bandied back and forth in this situation. But I’d really like to know who the actual bad guy is so I can call them Hitler.

#24 Donald Rex Jr.
@ 8:34 am

I believe the google works outside of Texas Jim. Seek and ye shall find.

#25 Donald Rex Jr.
@ 8:36 am

Put it this way, Rick Perry showed up at a televised Presidential debate last year hopped up on goof balls. A proud day for all Texans around the world!

#26 George Schwarz
@ 8:45 am


While I appreciate the attempt at sarcasm and attempt at humor, both failed, all you need to do is educate yourself. Cruise websites for the Texas newspapers; check out the Texas AG’s website. It’s not that difficult.

The record for the roles of Perry, Dewhurst and Abbott in squandering taxpayer resources on anti-government regulation and massive PR campaigns to let the Tea Party people know about it is clear.

Good luck with your learning experiences.

#27 JP Trostle
@ 9:11 am

No shame, no responsibility, no ethics.

That sums up Rick Perry nicely, doesn’t it? “Rick Hudson” ? if that is your real name ? proves once again that everything the right-wing says about its opponents is merely a projection of their own attitudes, causes and beliefs.

#28 Terry LaBan
@ 9:22 am

Good eye, JP Trostle! It’s true–only Rick Perry or one of his minions could’ve written “Rick Hudson”‘s response! Hey Rick–what 3 things do you dislike MOST about Jack Ohman’s cartoon? Oops!

#29 Jeff Darcy
@ 9:26 am

If elected President, I Rick Perry will eliminate the Department
of Deregulation, The Department of Editorial cartooning and, and,
um The Debate department and let’s see…um….uhhhhh

#30 Jeff Darcy
@ 9:30 am

Excuse me did I say I’d eliminate the Department of Deregulation?
I mean the Department of Regulation. – Gov Rick

#31 Jim Lavery
@ 9:52 am

Watch out Rick Hudson, I think YOU’RE gonna be the Hitler of this discussion!

#32 JP Trostle
@ 10:10 am

Sorry Jim, but we’ll have to disqualify you under Godwin’s Law. Thanks for playing! ;)

Now, can we get back to Rick Perry’s thin skin and deliberately thick response?

#33 Jeff Pert
@ 1:01 pm

Kudos to the Bee for printing a cartoon w/ some stones. Too many papers today cave to political or advertiser influence.

There is nothing to be contested in this cartoon regardless of your political beliefs. It was pointing up the price of Perry’s disregard for sfety in the pursuit of the almighty dollar. There is nothing in the cartoon that mocks the deaths of the explosion victims.

#34 Mike Lester
@ 12:42 pm

The Tsarnaev family received $100K in welfare. Personally, I’d never draw a cartoon w/ a punchline that said we weren’t getting our bang for our buck. But that just me.

#35 John Cole
@ 12:51 pm

Welcome to another episode of “Let’s Play False Equivalency!” Today, we’ll attempt to shoehorn a specious argument — in this case that “welfare-is-connected-to-terrorism” — into the very real and well-documented connection between safety regulations and industrial disasters.

#36 Mike Lester
@ 1:30 pm

Sorry, didn’t say it.

#37 Donald Rex Jr.
@ 1:48 pm

Live by the implication, die by the implication. Going to my oft observed “Mr Lester doesn’t seem to understand what he is posting.”

As per your link, $10,000 dollars on average in food stamps and housing vouchers for a decade to a family of four is not my idea of a ‘bonanza.’

I am so proud to live in a land where rational thought holds no sway in public dialogue, but is protected in the Arts.

#38 Joe Engesser
@ 2:28 pm

This thread’s been oveREXtended.

#39 Donald Rex Jr.
@ 5:17 pm

I don’t mind saying what bugs me either Joe.

How about this, a bill in the Texas Statehouse to make Perry pay the 3.7 million tax dollars he spent running for President.

#40 Jim Lavery
@ 6:56 pm

Just like Hitler did!! There, I said it.

#41 Milt Priggee
@ 6:54 am

Kudos to Stuart Leavenworth the editorial page editor of the Sac Bee….#1 he hired Ohman to do what he does best….draw political cartoons that get under the skin of the powerful and stupid with the TRUTH….#2 he published a cartoon he hired Ohman to create…..#3 he defended the cartoon and cartoonist he published and hired. Quite amazing in this day and age an editor with balls AND brains.

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