Editorial Cartoons: How Far is Too Far?

above: Boris Johnson in The Times by Peter Brookes

Tim Benson looks back at the cartoons of 2019 and asks,
“How far can you go in making people think but not being tasteless”?

In April, the international edition of The New York Times published a controversial cartoon. It showed a blind Donald Trump, wearing a skullcap, being led by a guide dog – which had the face of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

The President’s son, Donald Trump Jr, condemned the cartoon for “flagrant anti-Semitism”. Within hours the NYT apologised. Weeks later, the international NYT announced it would no longer publish cartoons.

Most cartoonists agreed that the image was ill-judged but said the saga amounted to an attack on political satire. The Guardian’s Martin Rowson denounced the NYT for its “cowardice, pomposity, overreaction and hypocrisy”.

Donald Trump in The Independent by Dave Brown

The commercial viability of a newspaper is dependent on keeping readers on side. It is crucial they do not publish cartoons seen as tasteless. But the debate about offensiveness has become more loaded in the last few years, arguably thanks to the rise of social media.

Read an edited excerpt from Britain’s Best Political Cartoons 2019, edited by Tim Benson.