Indianapolis Star Newspaper Apologizes for Cartoon on Migrants
By Emma G. Fitzsimmons
The Indianapolis Star removed a cartoon from its website over the weekend after readers complained that the drawing was racist for depicting an immigrant family climbing through a window to crash a white family’s Thanksgiving dinner.
The newspaper should not have published the cartoon, the paper’s executive editor, Jeff Taylor, said in a statement on Saturday. The cartoon, by the artist Gary Varvel, featured a white father unhappily telling his family, “Thanks to the president’s immigration order, we’ll be having extra guests this Thanksgiving.”
Mr. Taylor said that he was uncomfortable with the depiction when he saw it online, but editors decided to leave it up to allow readers to comment on it, and “because material can never truly be eliminated once it is circulating on the web.”
They decided to remove it on Saturday, he said.
“This action is not a comment on the issue of illegal immigration or a statement about Gary’s right to express his opinions strongly. We encourage and support diverse opinion,” Mr. Taylor wrote. “But the depictions in this case were inappropriate; his point could have been expressed in other ways.”
Many readers took issue with the heavy mustache worn by the immigrant father when the cartoon was posted on Friday. The mustache was later removed from the cartoon before the entire cartoon was taken down.
Mr. Taylor said that the cartoonist did not intend to be “racially insensitive” or for the cartoon to be read literally.
“He intended to illustrate the view of many conservatives and others that the president’s order will encourage more people to pour into the country illegally,” he said.
Mr. Varvel has been the editorial cartoonist at the newspaper since 1994, and his work is nationally syndicated through Creators Syndicate. The original cartoon was still posted to his Twitter page on Sunday evening. He did not respond to requests for comment.
He published several cartoons last week in response to the president’s immigration actions, which are expected to grant up to five million unauthorized immigrants protection from deportation. One cartoon showed the president’s car driving over the United States Constitution. Another showed the president dressed as a king for deciding to take action on his own.
Reporters at the newspaper criticized Mr. Varvel in 1999 when he illustrated invitations for an event that raised money for a Republican candidate for mayor, and the publisher agreed it was inappropriate. Mr. Varvel said at the time that he made “a stupid mistake” and thought the sketch was for a birthday party, not a political event.