Washington Post Drops Ted Rall’s Cartoons
WashingtonPost.com Drops Ted Rall’s Cartoons (Editor & Publisher)
WashingtonPost.com is no longer running the cartoons of hard-hitting liberal Ted Rall. Rall said he thinks the site dropped his work because of a Nov. 4 cartoon he did showing a drooling, mentally handicapped student taking over a classroom. “The idea was to draw an analogy to the electorate — in essence, the idiots are now running the country,” he told E&P. “That cartoon certainly drew a significant amount of negative comment from our users,” said WashingtonPost.com Executive Editor Doug Feaver when contacted by E&P. But he added that the decision to drop Rall was a “cumulative” one that had been building for a while.
“Ted Rall does very interesting work,” Feaver said. “Some of it is not funny to an awful lot of people. We decided at the end of the day that it just did not fit the tone we wanted at WashingtonPost.com.” Rall was dropped effective Nov. 15, according to Feaver. In addition to receiving a number of complaints about the Nov. 4 cartoon (including e-mails from parents of mentally handicapped children), WashingtonPost.com also received a number of complaints from readers criticizing the dropping of Rall.
“The analogy obviously fell flat, or overshadowed the main point of the cartoon,” Rall said of his Nov. 4 drawing. “More importantly, I forgot the editorial cartoonist’s obligation to comfort the afflicted while afflicting the comfortable. I got the latter in that cartoon at the expense of the former. Special-needs children face a lot of challenges; they don’t need, or deserve, mocking from me. … The cartoon was effective in its way, but it could have been better.” Rall said he was dropped for one “boneheaded” drawing when WashingtonPost.com has “no problem with 99% of my work.” He noted that the site could have pulled the one cartoon without canceling him entirely.
Another major newspaper site, NYTimes.com, dropped Rall this past winter (E&P, March 4) because it felt “some of his humor was not in keeping with the tone we try to set” — words not that different than WashingtonPost.com used today. But Rall said at the time that NYTimes.com was tired of dealing with e-mail campaigns from conservatives who didn’t like his work.
WaPo and NYT have done the right thing, although likely for the wrong reason. My guess is Rall is right–they’ve done so out of fear of losing advertisers and becoming tired of dealing with the controversy over his cartoons than out of simple decency. There are plenty of left-leaning cartoonists who get their point across without being vulgar; some are likely even funny. Rall, however, is neither funny nor an effective satirist.