The New Brouhaha in Editorial Cartooning


From KGTV San Diego:

San Diego Union Tribune cartoonist Steve Breen created a picture of authors James Baldwin and Toni Morrison, and actor Jussie Smollett, with the title “Famous African American Story Tellers,” according to Harris’ email. The image was published Friday, Harris said.

“It was egregious to us all,” Harris said at his news conference.

From KFMB-TV San Diego:

Rev. Shane Harris was also among the group that discussed the cartoon with Breen and his editors.

“This is not a joke. This is not a way to make jokes about our community,” he said.

Harris said it was insulting to see Smollett next to two African-American writers that are considered heroes and idols.


The paper has taken the cartoon down from its website and apologized:

Steve Breen’s editorial cartoon from Friday’s newspaper should not have been published and we have removed it from our website. At The San Diego Union-Tribune, we take matters of race and social justice seriously, which means handling these topics with care. That did not happen in this case.


Steve has also apologized.

“I just want to say that I am sorry for this cartoon. I should have reconstructed the cartoon differently. It read like I was putting them on the same plane – like I was denigrating these two great figures when that was not my intent,” said Breen.


Apparently new guidelines will be put in place:

Breen admitted he did not show the cartoon to a black colleague before it was published. According to Breen, had he, there is a good chance it would not have been published.

“My regret was that could not go back to Thursday and tweak the cartoon so that it was not hurtful or offensive to anybody,” said Breen.

Breen said he is also working to reach out to more people of color when he may have a blind spot on an issue.

“Going forward what we are going to do is we are going to show the cartoons to more people. The cartoons specifically on race so that we can get other perspectives,” said Breen.




3 thoughts on “The New Brouhaha in Editorial Cartooning

  1. The first mistake was conflating two literary figures w/ a liar. The second was apologizing for it. Steve just gave himself a whole lot of new editors he doesn’t need.

  2. “Breen admitted he did not show the cartoon to a black colleague before it was published.”

    Asking some random black guy (colleague or not) only reinforces the idea that POC all think alike and would be equally offended.

  3. I don’t understand why anyone except for fans of Jussie Smollett would be offended by this. What’s the infraction? It sounds like feigned outrage to me. No rational person would think that Breen is negatively associating Morrison and Baldwin with Smollett. It’s the differences between them that makes the comic work. But rational people are in short supply today.

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