L.A. Weekly, the ubiquitous guide to popular culture and urban style in Los Angeles, features a Republican wearing a Ku Klux Klan outfit as part of the illustration to its cover story this week on the GOP’s candidates for governor in the June 3 primary. The cover art depicts an elephant in a tug-of war between a portly, cigar-smoking team on one side, and a crew of conservative caricatures on the other, including the KKK figure.
The wounded elephant is bucking and apparently bellowing in pain–with one damaged tusk, blood dripping from rope burns, and other signs of injury from the Republican Party’s internal battles.
The conservative team includes a man wearing a ten-gallon hat, cowboy boots, and an American flag shirt; a man in military fatigues; a man in Colonial-era, “Tea Party” costume; and a white-hooded and white-robed KKK figure, who anchors the team in the foreground.
Tea Party leaders across the nation are outraged.
Jenny Beth Martin, chair of the Tea Party Patriots Citizens Fund, blasted the cartoon. “This is typical of the liberal media and shows how they’ve descended into full-desperation mode. When they realize they’re losing the debate, they resort to slander and hate because it’s all they have left.
“News organizations from Los Angeles to New York see the impeding Democratic Party train wreck this November and they are pulling out all the stops to try and save their political friends. They will fail,” she said.
“You find more diversity at a Tea Party event than you did in the Obama re-election campaign,” said Tea Party Nation founder Judson Phillips.
Toby Marie Walker, founder of the Waco, Texas Tea Party, said: “To depict people who believe in Tea Party principles, which include freedom and liberty for all, in such a manner is not only grotesque, it is ignorant. Obviously the cartoonist has missed his history lesson about the KKK origins in the Democrat party.”
Ironically, the accompanying story, by Gene Maddus, is an insightful account of the primary contest between State Assemblyman Tim Donnelly, who is favored by the Tea Party, and former U.S. Treasury official Neel Kashkari, who enjoys the support (and the independent expenditures) of the party’s establishment.
Maddus follows the two in a contest where polls suggest either man is likely to lose to Gov. Jerry Brown (D).
Editor-in-chief Sarah Fenske explained the L.A. Weekly‘s cover art to Breitbart News on Sunday.
“The goal with any cover is to get people to pick up the paper and read the journalism within. They’re not a literal illustration of the story inside (otherwise you might have seen a very dull caricature of Kashkari and an equally bland one of Donnelly),” she said.
However, Maddus’s story is rather colorful in its portrayal of both political candidates.
“Neel Kashkari was introduced to the American people as a human piñata,” Maddus writes, recalling Kashkari’s performance in defending the Wall Street bailouts before Congress. Later, he adds, Kashkari retreated to a cabin, “where he chopped wood and ruminated on the abuse he had endured in Washington.” Donnelly, he recounts, came to the Mexican border in 2005 “carrying a semi-automatic handgun and a Colt .45 and soon became “a conservative firebrand.”
Fenske allows that the goal of the cover was to mock the GOP: “Our creative director, Darrick Rainey, worked with the illustrator to incorporate some funny images of constituencies who might want to shape the future of a party that’s fallen on very hard times in California: fat-cat bankers, Minutemen, Tea Party activists, etc.”
She told Breitbart News that the choice of a KKK figure was inspired by a claim by David Duke in 2011 that Tea Party activists had urged him to run for president. “David Duke claimed some activists urged him to run for president in 2012; it’s not inconceivable his ilk might want to be among them.”
She provided no actual proof of Tea Party support for the KKK–an organization closely connected, historically, with the Democratic Party.
Rabbi Abraham Cooper, associate dean of the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center, said the L.A. Weekly‘s choice of imagery was unwise.
“Recent election cycles have found many examples of outrageous accusations against candidates from one party or the other of being like ‘Nazis,'” he told Breitbart News via e-mail. “The overall impact is to degrade the real meaning of the evil behind those symbols and ideologies.
“The Republican Party and the Tea Party are fair game for strident political criticism. However, it is outrageous for a political cartoon to imply that the GOP is subject to the ‘pull’ of the KKK, whose white-hooded figure is placed next to a Tea Party figure.
“Every time the race card is misappropriated it just makes harder on everyone when Americans are confronted with incidents of bigoted demagoguery-from the right or the left.”
Tea Party organizers were also eager to point out the weakness of the metaphor.
“It is truly amazing that the press concentrates its energy on identifying fringe individuals (found in every political cause or group) and then defines all conservatives by those exceptions,” said Virginia Tea Party Patriots Federation chair Travis Witt.
“Once again we must educate the left: it was the Democrats who wore the pointed KKK hats!” added Zan Green, founder of the Rainy Day Patriots Tea Party of Birmingham, Alabama.
Tea Party activists and leaders have frequently complained in the past that the media portray them, falsely, as racists. Their cause was taken up by the late Andrew Breitbart, who defended the Tea Party against charges that someone had used the “N-word” in a rally against Obamacare on Capitol Hill in 2010.
Breitbart offered a $100,000 pledge to the United Negro College Fund in return for proof of the claim, which had been made by several U.S. Representatives.
The reward was never collected.
“I’m past the point of caring about media representation of the Tea Party, especially blacks in the Tea Party,” said Tea Party activist and Breitbart News contributor Sonnie Johnson.
“Under that Klansman hood is probably a black woman that loves her God, her children, her husband, her community, her guns, her money, and her country. The mainstream media puts her under that hood to pretend she doesn’t exist. We exist and propaganda burns in the presence of truth.”