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University of Arizona Newspaper Apologizes for Cartoon That Joked About Father Killing His Gay Son

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The editor of the Arizona Wildcat, the student newspaper of the University of Arizona, apologized yesterday for a cartoon which joked about a father killing his gay son.

Wrote editor-in-chief Kristina Bui:

On Tuesday, the Daily Wildcat staff made a serious error in judgment in printing a cartoon that some readers felt was homophobic and inappropriate. We heard from several readers who expressed their disappointment and hurt over the comic strip.

The Arizona Daily Wildcat is now reviewing its editorial policies and has terminated the employment of the cartoonist as of Wednesday. His views do not represent the views of the Wildcat staff, nor does the Wildcat represent the views of the university.

The “etc.” cartoon in question illustrated a parent threatening their child if he ever came out, and the two characters joke about the threat. We agree with the criticism we’ve met, and we apologize. The comic was not funny.

Commenters to Bui's apology seem to mostly agree with one commenter, Andrew Simpson, who calls on the editorial board to resign:

You still do not seem to understand. The problem is not that "some readers felt" the cartoon was inappropriate. The problem is that you knowingly let your paper promote violent hate. You then published a cowardly non-apology along with an incoherent defense from the cartoonist. The readership cannot continue to trust editors after such a spectacular and public series of mistakes. You, the editorial board, can only really end this by resigning.

Nearly 5,000 folks on change.org feel the same way.

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Comments

  1. That's the problem, too many straights think homophobia is funny.

    Posted by: calvin | Oct 19, 2012 7:55:34 AM


  2. The cartoon is vile, but the newspaper's actions afterward, apologizing and firing the cartoonist, went most of the way toward solving the problem. They really messed up by inserting the "several readers felt" qualifier on this blatantly homophobic cartoon, which really negates the whole apology. And in another lesser case of tone deafness, after apologizing for the cartoon, they say "we agree with the criticism we've met...the cartoon is not funny." From other parts of the apology you can tell they get why people are angry, but that last part makes it sound like they think people are angry because the cartoon isn't funny, not because it promotes killing gay children. It's surprising what inept communicators these writers can be.

    Posted by: Brian | Oct 19, 2012 8:22:04 AM


  3. I'm going to take a different tack here. To me, it seems like black humor. Maybe the cartoonist could have phrased the captions slightly differently but I honestly don't think he meant to be homophobic.

    Posted by: jason | Oct 19, 2012 8:39:32 AM


  4. I (shudder) may find myself agreeing with Jason here. I'd have to see the cartoonist's other work, but this seems more like extremely dark, cynical humor. You're supposed to be flummoxed/repulsed by the father-son bonding over homophobia in the last panel... I think.

    Posted by: BGrey | Oct 19, 2012 8:43:48 AM


  5. Can some one explain to me how this could be mistaken for funny?

    Posted by: Will | Oct 19, 2012 8:44:48 AM


  6. I will give them the benefit of the doubt - It appears no one edited the newspaper at all for that tripe to be published. //sarcasm.

    Posted by: AngelaChanning | Oct 19, 2012 8:45:39 AM


  7. So I tried rereading it several times and I just can't see anything resembling black humor, or anything other than really nasty homophobia. Maybe if the cartoonist had had a third character who walked away from these two in the last frame and made some disparaging remark about how ignorant they were or something it might work. But the two characters laughing at the end is the final word, and it's clear their final thought about calling gays fruits and killing them, is "ha ha ha". And Jason's support of the cartoon is pretty much all the proof needed that the cartoon is indeed vile.

    Posted by: Brian | Oct 19, 2012 8:49:09 AM


  8. Oh, lordy, I need to do my research before I post. I looked at this fellow's other cartoons, and... oh boy.

    Posted by: BGrey | Oct 19, 2012 8:49:14 AM


  9. It's an enormous f-up, that in the currently climate got some attention.

    They probably didn't release their Board because it likely doesn't exist.

    And to the apologists for homophobia above... were you born yesterday? Gay people no longer have to brush off homophobia as no big deal; now we call it as it is, and this certainly was homophobia.

    They ought to have taken aim at Coulter- but completely missed the real target.

    Posted by: Pete N SFO | Oct 19, 2012 8:55:40 AM


  10. This cartoon is offensive on so many levels -- and while I can recognize that it is an approach at 'dark humor' is is not one which is appropriate for a public forum. Dark humor is often used to alleviate stress for those who must deal with horrific situations where the only alternative to a breakdown is laughter. Such humor is never for public consumption -- it is not intended to be public, and serves no purpose there. An editorial board which does not recognize this and would publish such a work is not to be trusted. They should go.

    Posted by: Alex Parrish | Oct 19, 2012 9:01:33 AM


  11. For those defending the cartoonist, please read his "apology" for the cartoon. His complete lack of understanding as to what was wrong with it says to me that the prevailing reaction is quite appropriate. http://www.wildcat.arizona.edu/article/2012/10/your-views-101812

    Also, check out the latest from the editorial staff. I think they do get it, and their evolution on the issue is pertinent to the discussion. Though I do think the "nobody around here knows him" defense is a bit weak. http://www.wildcat.arizona.edu/article/2012/10/from-the-newsroom-how-were-learning-from-our-mistake

    Posted by: Jonathan | Oct 19, 2012 9:05:17 AM


  12. Thank you for publicizing this. As a member of the UA faculty and the LGBT community, I was beyond appalled to discover this in my campus newspaper. So far, the apologies issues by the paper have been non-apologies and yet the campus administration does not seem to be taking the issue as seriously as they should. If you would like to phone the UA Dean of Students to ask for more accountability or to ask for a deeper investigation, call 520.621.7057.

    Posted by: Adam Ussishkin | Oct 19, 2012 9:18:50 AM


  13. Jason's support of this cartoon quite clearly confirms what many of us here have suspected for a while: Jason is not actually a gay man.

    He takes every opportunity to bash all representations of gay men or anyone doing good for the gay community. I honestly don't think I've ever seen make a positive comment here. Yet an instance of obvious homophobia and characters giggling about violence against gay men, he's all for that?

    Jason is some sort of strange and persistent Concern Troll masquerading as a gay man to sow discontent within our community.

    Posted by: endo | Oct 19, 2012 9:37:18 AM


  14. Endo,

    I simply don't like PC in the gay community. If we're going to progress, we need to criticize all and sundry. There is a place for black humor. Black humor can be very effective in conveying issues.

    I look at that cartoon and understand the creepiness of it. It's a commentary on negative attitudes towards homosexuality. I see more homophobia in gay guys who are closeted.

    Posted by: jason | Oct 19, 2012 9:45:02 AM


  15. Even trolls can be gay, so Jason is not necessarily straight.

    Posted by: Blake | Oct 19, 2012 9:47:31 AM


  16. No Jason, it's not a commentary on negative attitudes toward homosexuality, it is the negative attitude in the extreme, and you know it.

    I guarantee that if the cartoonist was a woman or black Jason would be screeching about how horrible it was and therefore all women are evil.

    Posted by: Brian | Oct 19, 2012 9:56:10 AM


  17. Give me a break! There's nothing remotely anti-PC about your ongoing crusade against Lady Gaga and other female entertainers. Or your constant harping every time a celebrity like Brad Pitt endorses gay marriage.

    You have a specific motive. And it's not being anti-PC. It's trolling everyone here.

    You've been found out. Game over, man!

    Posted by: endo | Oct 19, 2012 9:57:13 AM


  18. There appears to be nothing on the University of Arizona website other than the editor's statement (let's not call that an apology) and other items mentioned here. No statement from the president, who has a prominent office of diversity programs. Nothing in the local Arizona news. Nothing to suggest this cartoon isn't consistent with University policy and culture. It is astonishing. Cartoons in my school papers were often not funny, but this conjures the Jim Crow south in a new age.

    Posted by: Don | Oct 19, 2012 9:57:30 AM


  19. I have an expanded (warped) sense of humor, I get the joke. Now, this assumes that the joke wasn't a violent knock on gays, I know nothing of the cartoonist to confirm that. BUUUUUT, if you took that joke and had the dad do it with a nod and a dead delivery, it could be funny! NO MATTER WHAT the joke was a total failure. He needed another panel to add context to make it.. you know.. not a hate joke.

    As for the people in charge, I was EIC of my college newspaper and despite how small and simple it was, I totally let a bunch of mistakes through. That apology is a REAL apology and I want to give them props for that.

    Posted by: Fenrox | Oct 19, 2012 9:57:56 AM


  20. Just imagine if this were done at NYU. Or Harvard. Or Duke. Or MIT. And the outrage there would be. This is so beyond callous. And the fake non-apology from the cartoonist in question was completely reprehensible.

    Yes, the angle was likely dark humor. Does that make this appropriate? No. Alex explained that perfectly. UA editorial board HAD to have known this would cause major offense yet printed this anyway. They all should be fired. And the lack of school response tells me they really don't care much about their gay students.

    Posted by: Francis | Oct 19, 2012 10:08:00 AM


  21. The editor(s)needs to resign or be fired! Cartoon strips do not make it into a paper without being okayed by its editor!

    Posted by: chuck | Oct 19, 2012 10:21:11 AM


  22. Stuff like this makes want to just give up.
    How does it make it to print???

    Posted by: Michael Kilkeary | Oct 19, 2012 10:29:30 AM


  23. For the handful of people above supporting this comic, two comments. First, this is not black humor or dark satire, which must reveal its cynicism somehow. We as the audience must have some kind of "in" by which we can interpret the humor as a reflex against hopelessness. That "in" can be characteristics of the author, his or her other work, or--in the best kind of black humor--within the work itself. The last panel in the comic removes any argument that this is black humor in the material itself, and I've found nothing about the author or his other work suggesting we can interpret this as being "social commentary."

    Second, disliking this is not political correctness run amok. Political correctness, when used pejoratively, is about excessive protection of the sensibilities of a target group for no discernible reason other than rhetorical and ideological control. However, given the persistent violence against homosexuals and the clear causal connection between social and cultural mores and that violence, it is fair to call out work such as this comic strip. If we view criticism of such work as mere "political correctness" then we completely undercut the substantive issue at play.

    Posted by: Stefan | Oct 19, 2012 10:55:40 AM


  24. These are young students we're talking about here; the cartoonist probably was attempting dark humor and failed. That aside, it was way out of line. The cartoonist and editor should both lose their positions at the paper.

    Posted by: ratbastard | Oct 19, 2012 10:59:44 AM


  25. Do we know who the cartoonist is? Has he or she voiced their opinion?

    Posted by: Dawson | Oct 19, 2012 11:44:10 AM


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