Washington Post Pulls Political Cartoon Depicting Ted Cruz’s Daughters As Monkeys

A political cartoonist for The Washington Post crossed a line and, rightfully, got condemned for it.

Ted Cruz And Family

The Washington Post has pulled a political cartoon depicting Senator Ted Cruz and his two young daughters after largely bipartisan push back erupted over the way the children were depicted:

Ted Cruz obtained new ammunition Tuesday to shoot at his favorite bogeyman, the mainstream media, after The Washington Post depicted his two young daughters as monkey-like characters doing the bidding of their father.

By early Tuesday evening, backlash to the cartoon had swelled to the point where the Post took down the image and replaced it with an editor’s note.

Ann Telnaes, a Post cartoonist, drew an animation of the Republican presidential contender in a Santa outfit, with two hatted creatures, after the family gamely appeared in a parody television advertisement that aired during “Saturday Night Live” this weekend.

In the 90-second spot, “Cruz Christmas Classics,” which had nearly 1.5 million views as of Tuesday afternoon, the daughters and Cruz’s wife, Heidi, read from a fictional holiday-themed children’s book while sitting together on the couch.

Cruz quickly blasted the Post’s cartoon.

“Classy. @washingtonpost makes fun of my girls. Stick w/ attacking me–Caroline & Catherine are out of your league,” Cruz tweeted Tuesday.

Even Marco Rubio, who has been tangling loudly with Cruz for several weeks, came to his defense.

“Wash Post cartoon featuring @tedcruz’s children is disgusting. The Post saying the kids are ‘fair game’ is even worse,” he tweeted.

Cruz later thanked him for the tweet.

“Thank you, @marcorubio Appreciate the kind support. We’re both Dads of young kids, and it’s hard enough on them,” Cruz tweeted.

Telnaes, however, defended her cartoon on Twitter.

“Ted Cruz has put his children in a political ad — don’t start screaming when editorial cartoonists draw them as well,” she wrote.

She added that Cruz had now made his kids acceptable targets for satire.

“When a politician uses his children as political props, as Ted Cruz recently did in his Christmas parody video in which his eldest daughter read (with her father’s dramatic flourish) a passage of an edited Christmas classic, then I figure they are fair game,” she wrote.

Cruz frequently cites his two grade-school daughters in his stump speech, which also frequently ridicules coverage of Cruz in prominent national publications like the Post and The New York Times. Cruz frequently jokes that reporters and editors will “check themselves into therapy” when he is elected because they will be so distraught.

In place of the cartoon Fred Hiatt, the Post’s editorial page editor, wrote in a post why it was taken down.

“It’s generally been the policy of our editorial section to leave children out of it. I failed to look at this cartoon before it was published. I understand why Ann thought an exception to the policy was warranted in this case, but I do not agree.”

You can find a representation of the cartoon, which was apparently originally an animated GIF, in the story posted at Mediaite, and Telnaes appears to have based her cartoon on an ad that Cruz ran in Iowa over the weekend in which he reads a politicized version of “The Night Before Christmas” to his daughters while a narrator speaks. That commercial, in turn, refers back to the time in 2013 when Cruz read from Dr. Seuss’s “Green Eggs And Ham” during his budget filibuster that was part of the debate over the 2013 government shutdown, explaining that he needed to read them their bedtime story.  Just for reference, the Cruz’s have two daughters, Caroline, who was born in 2008 and Catherine, who was born in 2011. So, basically, we’re talking about two girls, one of whom is in, I would assume, First Grade and the other of whom isn’t old enough for Kindergarten yet.

As I think I’ve made clear many times here, I am no fan of Ted Cruz in any sense of the word. I find his politics extreme and his demeanor, well, indicative of someone who just isn’t trustworthy. Were he the Republican nominee I not only wouldn’t support him, but I’m convinced he’d lead the GOP down the road to electoral disaster just like nominating Donald Trump would. That being said, I’ve got to side with those who say that Telenaes crossed a line here and that Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt was right to pull the cartoon, although his admission that he didn’t even review it before it was posted makes one wonder exactly what the “editor” does over there at the post.

There is, as Hiatt says, a line that has long been drawn in American politics that says that children, most especially young children but also including older kids, are off limits. You can say whatever you want about a candidate, because they’re after all the one running for office. Candidate’s spouses and adult children are also, arguably, also “fair game” to the extent that they involve themselves in electoral politics. Younger children, though, should be left alone, not only because of their age but because of the fact that they are not voluntary participants in their parents campaign and because depicting them in demeaning ways is something that could lead to embarrassment that kids don’t deserve to be put through. Once these children become adults and they start getting involved in politics in their own right, such as Meghan McCain and to some extent Chelsea Clinton have, then the rules are arguably much different. When they are minors, though, and especially when they are as young as the Cruz daughters, taking the kind of shot that Telnaes did is both cheap and low-class.

This isn’t the first time that someone has crossed the line, of course. Back in the 1990s, Rush Limbaugh came under attack when a segment of his old television show used a graphic of a dog while he talked about Chelsea Clinton, who was a teenager at the time. More recently, David Letterman got himself in hot water over jokes he made about Sarah Palin and her then teenage daughter Willow and, just over a year ago, a Communications Director for a Republican Member of Congress ended up resigning her position after posting a long diatribe to Facebook in which she mocked the Obama daughters and the way they had dressed for the President’s ceremonial “turkey pardoning” on the day before Thanksgiving. Even in our overly polarized and politicized society, there seemed to be near universal recognition that incidents like this were entirely inappropriate.

Telnaes, of course, is arguing that the fact that Cruz used his daughters in a political ad somehow changes the game, but I’d argue that she’s still mistaken. It’s not at all uncommon for a politician to use scenes of family time together in campaign ads, campaign videos, or campaign literature, and you’ll often see spouses and children join a candidate on stage at the end of a political rally, as seen in the photo of the Cruz family at the top of this post. That doesn’t mean that the children have suddenly become legitimate targets of political attack and ridicule in the manner that Telanaus attempted to do in her cartoon. Just imagine, for example, if a political cartoonist had depicted the Obama children as monkeys after the Obama campaign released an ad depicting the then-Senator spending time with his daughters while Michelle talked about what kind of father he tries to be. The irony of all this, of course, is that, while Telnaes is obviously not a Cruz fan, what she’s done here will likely inure to his benefit to the extent it reinforces the narrative on the right that the media is biased against conservatives. Or, as Telnaes’s Post colleague Callum Borchers puts it:

Whether you agree with Telnaes’s original reasoning or Hiatt’s overriding rationale, one thing should be obvious to any political observer: This is a win for a candidate who is rising in the polls thanks to support for more conservative Republicans and who has been highly critical of the press — most memorably during the third Republican presidential debate, when he blasted the moderators’ questions as being illustrative of “why the American people don’t trust the media.”

The cartoon episode does two things for Cruz: It gives him a piece of evidence to pull out whenever he wants to argue that the loathsome “mainstream media” doesn’t treat him — or conservatives in general — fairly. And it makes his and his supporters’ anti-establishment pushback seem effective, by virtue of the retraction.

So, if Telnaes was trying to attack him her attack backfired spectacularly. The outrage would have been heard from coast to coast, and it would have been deserved. It’s just as wrong in this case, and the Post was right to pull the cartoon. Ideally, Telnaes will recognize her error and apologize to the Cruz family.

FILED UNDER: Campaign 2016, US Politics, ,
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    I find … his (Cruz’s) demeanor, well, indicative of someone who just isn’t trustworthy.

    Doug Mataconis, master of understatement.

    Telnaes’ cartoon is jaw dropping bad taste.

  2. Jen says:

    Awful. It was correct to pull it down. The ad by Cruz is awful–cheesy and overwrought–but absolutely kids are off-limits.

  3. Hal_10000 says:

    Dammit, cartoonists. DON’T MAKE ME SIDE WITH TED CRUZ

  4. jd says:

    But without the cartoon satire, how do we check the sleazy political abuse of the children? Do we accept it silently, implying we condone it?

  5. Franklin says:

    @jd: I think the answer is to condemn it, but not by drawing the same children as monkeys.

  6. Mikey says:

    @jd: We don’t have to be silent, but one can surely express appropriate disapproval at Cruz’s use of his kids in a political ad without drawing them as performing monkeys.

  7. @jd:

    Every election season, I get flyers in the mail from candidates showing them with their spouse, kids, and family pets. These come from candidates on both sides of the political aisle.

    Should those be condemned too?

    What about this ad from the Obama Campaign in 2008?

    The fact that Cruz or other candidates may “use” his family for political purpose is not free license to mock children.

  8. Jeremy R says:

    That Telnaes thinks it’s ever acceptable to depict racial minorities as nonhuman primates should make WaPo seriously concerned about her judgement and potentially reconsidering her employment with the paper.

  9. MarkedMan says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    The fact that Cruz or other candidates may “use” his family for political purpose is not free license to mock children.

    I don’t often agree with you Doug, but you are dead right on this one. In this particular case it goes farther – if Cruz crossed a line in the way he used his family as props and you want to call him out on it, then you blow your argument up entirely if you try to use those children as even more inappropriate props.

  10. jd says:

    @Doug Mataconis:
    @Mikey:
    @Franklin:
    Then let the condemnation begin. As an ordinary Joe, I would use my mad Internet skilz to rant in a political blog comment section. But if I had leet cartooning skilz, I would find a way to point out the inappropriate use of children in a political attack ad in an image. I think this hub-bub over the cartoon shows us that (1) images are more powerful than words and (2) satire has been lost.

  11. Rafer Janders says:

    @Jeremy R:

    That Telnaes thinks it’s ever acceptable to depict racial minorities as nonhuman primates

    Um, what?

    The cartoon was crass, tasteless, out of bounds and all around hideous. But Cruz’s children are not racial minorities. What do you mean by this?

  12. Paul L. says:

    I find his politics extreme and his demeanor, well, indicative of someone who just isn’t trustworthy. Were he the Republican nominee I not only wouldn’t support him, but I’m convinced he’d lead the GOP down the road to electoral disaster just like nominating Donald Trump would.

    Doug believes this is true for any Republican .
    Including the “electable moderates” Romney and Mccain.

  13. CrustyDem says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    Having images of your daughter in a positive ad is not equivalent to using your daughter deliver attacks on an opponent…

    Which is not a defense of the abhorrent cartoon, but that ad should offend any parent. I can’t imagine using my children to make derogatory comments about an opponent…

  14. gVOR08 says:

    @Rafer Janders: It did occur to me that had she done that cartoon with Obama and his daughters she’d have been crucified, almost literally. And rightly so. Even Hiatt might have found it inappropriate without prompting.

  15. Franklin says:

    @Rafer Janders: At first I was confused, too, but I think it’s because Cruz is Hispanic, right?

  16. Pch101 says:

    @jd:

    But without the cartoon satire, how do we check the sleazy political abuse of the children? Do we accept it silently, implying we condone it?

    The kids could have been depicted as puppets or marionettes, not as monkeys.

    Not only is the monkey stereotype offensive, but it detracts from the message itself, which is that the kids are being manipulated and used for crass political purposes. It should be made clear that the attack is on Cruz himself, not on his kids. (Perhaps next time, the kids will do a better job of choosing their parents.)

  17. Franklin says:

    @jd: Your post did make me think. Yes, the cartoon calls out the exploitation. But Doug’s basically right – we’re never going to get to the point where politician’s families are completely excluded from the limelight. Good or bad, we want to know politicians as humans.

    And, of course, history has tainted any public comparisons of people to monkeys, regardless of how the apt the connection is. (To be clear: I don’t mean it is apt to compare his daughters to monkeys, but it is definitely apt how he is using them.)

    Finally, this episode manages to make Cruz look like the good guy, ergo it was a bad move.

  18. Rafer Janders says:

    @Franklin:

    At first I was confused, too, but I think it’s because Cruz is Hispanic, right?

    Sure, but Hispanic is an ethnic/linguistic/ethnic grouping, not a race. You can be Hispanic and white, Hispanic and black, Hispanic and Japanese, Hispanic and Jewish, etc. etc.

    And while Ted’s father was Cuban, his mother was ethnically of English descent (maiden name Wilson) and his wife is named Heidi Nelson. At most his children are one-quarter Hispanic.

  19. Bruce Pliner says:

    I’m a hater that despises just about every politician including Cruz, but I draw the line when it comes to kids. This just reeks of maliciousness.

  20. mantis says:

    The cartoon was out of bounds without a doubt, and never should have been published.

    One does wonder, however, if Ted Cruz will just start producing commercials with his daughters delivering attack messages at Hillary Clinton all by themselves (messages they clearly wouldn’t understand, as his daughter most certainly does not know what she is talking about when she reads the line about “private servers” in the ad he already aired). If anyone responds, they are attacking his children!

    The correct response, of course, is to leave any portrayals of his children out of the responses, and simply focus on what a slimy bastard Cruz is for having his daughters deliver political attack messages. What a disgraceful scumbag. Thanks, Texas, you morons.

  21. CSK says:

    @Rafer Janders:

    Cruz’s mother’s maiden name was Darragh–apparently she was married to and divorced from a man surnamed Wilson–so she’s actually Irish by ancestry on the paternal side.

    As a side note. the white surpremacist groups do not regard anyone with any degree of Hispanic ancestry as Caucasian–which is another reason why they prefer Trump to Cruz.

  22. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @jd: The satire only works to the extent that the viewers of the cartoon actually know the context of the protest. How many people actually would have seen the Cruz video in question? I know that I didn’t, but I don’t keep up with pop culture as much as others might–being considerably older than you (based on your icon photo). Even if I had seen the video in question, my reaction would have been to observe what a useless partisan putz Cruz is (then again, not a Cruz fanboi).

    The organ grinder/monkey reference also seems inappropriate. I think having the kids portrayed as ventriloquist’s dummies would have been more to the point, and a more forceful image. Still over the top, though.

    Then again, I’m just an ignorant cracker and know nothing from satire.

  23. JWh says:

    If the artist hadn’t mentioned Cruz’s kids specifically, I would have assumed the monkeys represented campaign staffers, Fox News, voters, or something.

  24. bill says:

    white folks cant criticize anyone with any sort of “minority” status. i don’t make the rules, they are what the lame pc msm made them…..and you sheep followed.
    so hands off cruz, rubio and carson- also , men can’t make fun of women…….for the same “reasoning”.

  25. An Interested Party says:

    What about this ad from the Obama Campaign in 2008?

    Compare apples and oranges much, Doug? The 2008 ad is nothing like Cruz’s ad…as offensive as the cartoon is, it is even more odious for a politician to use his young children to attack political opponents…

  26. An Interested Party says:

    white folks cant criticize anyone with any sort of “minority” status. i don’t make the rules, they are what the lame pc msm made them…..and you sheep followed.

    What a load of horse$hit…there are plenty of non-white politicians that are criticized on a daily basis by whites and people don’t always scream “racism” when that happens…now, if you want to talk about conspiracy theories about the President being born in another country, that’s a horse of a different color…

    …men can’t make fun of women…

    Oh please…let Trump make fun of Hillary all he wants…that will only help her…

  27. James Pearce says:

    Saw a funny tweet from Jack Shafer:

    “I might get upset about the Cruz cartoon if I didn’t subscribe to Charlie Hebdo.”

    Bad taste from the Washington Post, using the kids in their cartoon, but I’ll let other people complain about it. I’m just kind of sick of the culture of victimhood. Nothing but victims here.

  28. Pch101 says:

    white folks cant criticize anyone with any sort of “minority” status.

    To a right-wing populist, a day that you aren’t free to whine about towelheads, spics and niggers is like a day without sunshine.

  29. steve says:

    Will have to disagree here. If Cruz wants to use his kids as props, then they are fair game. This was in an actual political ad where they weren’t just part of the family picture. Cruz should never have put his kids in the spotlight like this.

    Steve

  30. Rafer Janders says:

    @CSK:

    As a side note. the white surpremacist groups do not regard anyone with any degree of Hispanic ancestry as Caucasian

    Well, once again, and no surprise, the white supremacist groups are wrong. I lived in Latin America for years, and the range of ethnicity and races in many countries is as wide as you find it here in the US. In Argentina, for example, about 85% of the country is of ethnic-European descent (German, English, Italian, Russian, French, etc.).

  31. Jenos Idanian says:

    When a nobody GOP staffer on Capitol Hill said something unkind about Obama’s daughters, the left declared a jihad on her. She was fired, the Washington Post sent a reporter to her home at the crack of dawn, and everything she had ever written for public consumption was put under the microscope.

    Did Ann Telnaes get the Full Lauten treatment? Nope.

    Was she fired? Nope.

    Was she at least suspended? Nope.

    She didn’t go after teenagers, she went after two girls less than half the ages of the Obama daughters. And she didn’t do it on Facebook, she did it in the pages of one of the nation’s leading newspapers.

    It’s a double standard. It’s bad to go after politicians’ children. But if that politician is a Democrat, that’s seventeen zillion times worse. When it’s a Republican’s children… well, that’s just bad because it might make people sympathize with the Republican, and that would be terrible. But it will blow over.

  32. Jenos Idanian says:

    Remember, folks: “Hispanic” is not a race. Neither is “Muslim.” But Donald Trump, when he says things that are supposedly disparaging of those groups, is proving he’s a racist.

    Liberal Logic. Liberated from even internal consistency.

  33. James Pearce says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    It’s a double standard.

    When a congressional staffer and a political cartoonist suffer different fates, it does not mean that there is a double standard, Jenos. It might actually mean there are different standards. I’ll never get this right wing urge to flatten everything out in the service of false equivalence.

    I fully expect modern liberals to police cartoons for offensive, politically unpopular content. That’s kind of their bag these days. And I fully expect Ted Cruz to go Papa Grizzly on the cartoon, protecting his brood as he should. But what, this thing is all about partisan loyalty to you? Pretty sure you weren’t part of the mob that went after Lauten, but you’ll join the one against Telnaes? You know, on principle.

  34. Jenos Idanian says:

    @James Pearce: So what was the “policing” here? The paper pulled the cartoon, so it’s all fine and dandy?

    So let’s not focus on the parallels, let’s look at the contrasts.

    1) Lauten’s targets were teenagers; Telnaes’ were 5 and 7.

    2) Lauten was an amateur, on Facebook. Telnaes is a lauded professional, with the platform of one of the nation’s leading newspapers.

    3) Lauten was snarking on her own time. Telnaes did it as part of her job.

    Logically, Telnaes should be held to a higher standard than Lauten. Instead, she’s apparently being punished in the least manner possible.

    It’s Jill Greenberg all over again.

  35. James Pearce says:

    @Jenos Idanian:

    Logically, Telnaes should be held to a higher standard than Lauten.

    Where have you taken into account that Telnaes is a cartoonist? Her cartoon may not be suitable for the Washington Post, and they’ve admitted as much, but its existence is not outrageous. Published in some low-brow rag, it might have just been considered “par for the course” or even escaped larger notice.

    Lauten, on the other hand, was fired because her amateur ramblings reflected poorly on her boss. Totally different context, totally different result.

    Instead, she’s apparently being punished in the least manner possible.

    What punishment, I wonder, do you think is appropriate for a cartoonist drawing offensive things?

    And really, Jenos, Jill Greenberg?

  36. Pch101 says:

    Lauten’s targets were teenagers; Telnaes’ were 5 and 7.

    Telnaes’ target was Ted Cruz.

    FFS, try to get something right for a change.

  37. Jenos Idanian says:

    @James Pearce: Where have you taken into account that Telnaes is a cartoonist?

    In the part where I said that, since she was acting as a professional, she should be held to a higher standard than an amateur.

    And Greenberg? A shining example of a liberal abusing their professional status to advance their politics

    But it’s no biggie. .It’s not like she went after the children of a Democrat or drew Mohammed or something serious…

  38. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Pch101: Funny. I just looked up “pedantic twit,” and there you were.

  39. PJ says:

    That Cruz is a shi**y parent doesn’t make his children fair game.

    If you ever have wondered what kind of parent would bring their children to, for instance, protest outside a Planned Parenthood, just take a look at Cruz.

    But again, this doesn’t make his children fair game. He should be attacked for using his children in his attack ads, that says a lot about his character.

  40. Jenos Idanian says:

    Hey, let’s look at a few other examples of “shitty parents” using their children for political purposes.

    Remember Graeme Frost? He was the little boy who was given Obama’s weekly address to advocate for the S-CHIP program. Some people decided to fact-check his claims, and found out that his situation was the result of his parents putting a higher priority on chasing their dreams than providing for their families. The left was OUTRAGED!!!!! that anyone would dare fact-check the kid’s claims.

    How about this video? Is this worse than Cruz reading stories to his children? Did I miss all the condemnation around these parts?

  41. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Jenos Idanian: I actually liked the video, but I don’t think that it’s a good idea to encourage children to use bad language. Their use of four-letter words may have added to the humor of the piece, but it detracted from the gravitas. Then again, I haven’t seen the Ted Cruz piece (and wouldn’t cross the street to urinate on him if he were on fire), so I can’t compare which piece crosses whatever line we are worrying about here in the most grievous manner.

  42. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: I actually liked the video

    Let me show you my shocked face.

    Then again, I haven’t seen the Ted Cruz piece

    This is my shocked face turned up to 11.

    The Cruz video is incredibly mild, and very cute. But if your preference is kids yelling “F U” to Trump, then you probably would not like Ted Cruz reading to his children from “Rudolph The Underemployed Reindeer” or “How ObamaCare Stole Christmas,” “The Grinch Who Lost Her E-Mails,” and “Auditing St. Nick” (the last by Lois Lerner).

  43. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    @Jenos Idanian: What you accused me of

    But if your preference is kids yelling “F U” to Trump,

    What I actually said:

    but I don’t think that it’s a good idea to encourage children to use bad language. Their use of four-letter words may have added to the humor of the piece, but it detracted from the gravitas.

    Your lovely parting gift is waiting at the rear entrance.

  44. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: You liked the video, but you disapprove of it. And you haven’t seen the Cruz video, but you don’t like it.

    I thought you were one of the smarter ones around here, but here you’re really trying to live up to your screen name…

  45. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:
  46. Just 'nutha ig'rant cracker says:

    And I don’t understand how you came to the conclusion that I gave any opinion at all on the Cruz video. Do you pull this stuff out of your neither regions?

  47. Jenos Idanian says:

    @Just ‘nutha ig’rant cracker: I’m sorry, I was all discombobulated by the incredible discontinuity you were demonstrating. You were commenting on an article about a cartoon based on a video that you not only have not seen, but have deliberately chosen to not see. Your sheer illogic was apparently contagious.

    WTF are you doing saying anything at all, then? I’m not trying to sound hostile with that, but I am genuinely puzzled.