Blog Columns Syndicate

Kill the Messenger

The Daily Illini college newspaper at the University of Illinois cancelled their subscription to the 50+ cartoonists in our syndication package this week in response to protests against the Rick McKee cartoon below, that they chose to reprint. Read their statement apologizing for publishing the cartoon. The Daily Illini student editor who chose to publish Rick McKee’s cartoon was suspended. USA Today did a story about the cartoon controversy.

In their apology, the Daily Illini editors write:

The person who selected the cartoon is currently on suspension due to regrets on the oversight. This choice was made out of carelessness, not out of malice. This student has learned an important lesson about carelessness.

We unfortunately cannot go back and erase it from yesterday’s paper, yet we hope this serves as a wake-up call in our decisions as an editorial staff. We apologize again, and hope that we can earn back the trust and confidence of our readers with each issue of The Daily Illini from here on.

We have reached out to the directors of the Native American House, La Casa Cultura Latina, Bruce D. Nesbitt African American Cultural Center and the Asian American Cultural Center and invited them to come in and talk with the staff about mindfully reporting on issues pertinent to underrepresented communities.

We recognize that a statement can not recognize the hurt that this cartoon may have caused and we apologize for the perpetration of this disgusting stereotype.

Our cartoon package includes cartoonists with a range of views from conservative to liberal, and it isn’t unusual that we get complaints from editors about cartoons they disagree with. Often the complaints come with threats to unsubscribe if we don’t remove content that the editor doesn’t like. Sometimes we get demands that we “fire” the cartoonists that editors or readers disagree with.

With a wide range of content, we have something new that everyone can disagree with, every day.  Since editors receive about a dozen cartoons a day to choose from they can easily choose cartoons that meet their preconceived world views and they always have cartoon choices available that will not challenge their readers. It is usually the conservative editors who complain about liberal cartoons that offend them. In the case of the Daily Illini, the complaints, and the subscription cancellation come from the liberal side of the spectrum – which fits the conservative narrative about “politically correct” colleges stifling conservative ideas. Our experience is that the liberal editors are usually the ones who print left vs. right columns and cartoons, while the conservative editors prefer to reassure their conservative readers by only reinforcing the views their readers already hold.

As a liberal cartoonist who runs a business that includes conservative cartoonists and columnists, it is fascinating to see the change in attitudes among editors and readers as both ends of the spectrum become less tolerant and seek to punish those who hold opposing views who offend them.

Rick McKee’s response made me smile:

“I think it’s a sad day for journalism whenever a newspaper feels it has to apologize for something they knowingly published. But I don’t blame the students. They’re just kids and they’re learning. I blame the politically correct atmosphere they find themselves in that exists on most U.S. college campuses. Our institutions of higher learning are supposed to be safe spaces where differing viewpoints are tolerated, but that no longer seems to be the case. There’s nothing racist about the cartoon and the notion that people should come into this country legally is an opinion that is widely held by many Americans. I’d also like to add that if you hated this cartoon — or if you loved it — my new book is filled with much of the same and can be pre-ordered at a discount right now at !”

Want to comment to the Daily Illini? Email them at [email protected]. You can make a comment for us here or on our Facebook page at

We’ve gotten some interesting comments, here is a sampling …

Rich Moyer Of course, having him just stand around out-waiting his visa is a boring illustration.
Jim Engel I think every political cartoonist should apologize every day.
Aaron Hill Makes me wonder if they published it on purpose to stir up controversy to get out of settling their bill…!
(the Daily Illini is five months behind on their payments for our cartoon package)
Gary McCoy If you look up “gutless-wonder” in the dictionary, you’ll see a picture of the Daily Illini.
Wise The editor probably supported Woodrow Wilson.
Jim Phillips Isn’t that like blaming the grocery store because you didn’t like the new cereal you bought? After you ate the whole box.

Joe Gandelman, who runs The Moderate Voice site wrote a long and interesting response to my column about the Daily Illini dropping over the Rick McKee Illegal Immigrant Trick or Treater cartoon. Here it is:

I have to add to this. I started The Moderate Voice in December 2003 and it became a group blog by 2004. I’ve written for The Week online and for nearly five years did a syndicated column for Cagle Cartoons. Not a WEEK goes by when I don’t get some emails or facebook messages from someone trying to ban an opposing view or taking great exception to a post or a comment. I know that some will now sic The False Equivilancy Police on me, but the fact is left, center, right are now almost all the same when it comes trying to remove a viewpoint or limit it, in so many areas.

No, this isn’t just talking about the decade plus of TMV but about Facebook, response to my columns and emails on my pieces I did for The Week. Rage and outrage are prime components of our politics on so many fronts now. Just as there’s a 24/7 news cycle and social media is instantaneous, so is the tendency now to slip into outrage mode ASAP.. Once upon a time there was a delay as people pondered the meaning of things but reaction (rage, outrage, demands, threats not to read again) is now instantaneous.

In the case of Cagle Cartoons, I have a large number of columns and cartoons I can choose from. Many do NOT reflect my view and I run some of them. If I really don’t like one, I can pass on it. And that’s no big deal (some people prefer fish to meat). But so many cartoons are offered from all around the world. Cancelling a service because an editor chose to run a cartoon out of a huge number is puzzling. But not surprising (these days).

I’m sure this cartoon will spark some spirited discussion here at TMV. I need to add that over the years TMV has lost people who were modest donors of the center right and center left due to my refusing to ban someone from the site or remove a post they didn’t like.

I saw this cartoon, but didn’t run it because I had many others I wanted to run and hadn’t gotten to even putting them up, And for another reason: I’m someone who had someone who was here illegally as his Little Brother in Wichita , Kansas, years ago and who has covered immigrants at the border in my old job on the San Diego Union covering the border, Reagan’s immigration reform and Tijuana so it wasn’t one I CHOSE to put up. I make my choices VERY quickly about what I’ll put up or pass on because I read so many posts, syndicated materials and cartoons. So this was no biggie. I merely chose another one — a process I do EACH time I choose cartoons to put up.. I’ve run many cartoonists by the cartoonist who did the one above over the years. And I’ve run many others by other cartoonists, who I’ve also many times chosen not to run in favor of using another cartoon by another cartoonist. I’m not obligated to use or not use a cartoon but in the end it’s my decision what I put on the site.

I need to add that I run some other syndicated materials. I CHOOSE what I put up. And if readers were upset over one of the syndicated pieces I CHOOSE to put up from a service, I could let it stand or remove it. But I wouldn’t cancel using the entire syndicate when it had been MY choice to use it or not use it.

I’ll leave the rest to readers in comments.