The New York Times has suspended the publication of all future syndicated political cartoons in its international print edition, the newspaper’s spokeswoman Eileen Murphy confirmed late Monday.
The Daily Beast’s Lloyd Grove spoke with Murphy in the wake of the newspaper’s publication of a second controversial cartoon that drew critical condemnation from the Jewish community–after a first cartoon, which the paper now admits was antisemitic, was retracted and then subsequently apologized for over the weekend.
The newspaper is in a full internal crisis on this matter, as executives and editors have launched a full-scale internal investigation into what happened, who is responsible, and what procedural and structural changes need to take place so the Times does not publish more antisemitic content.
It all started last Thursday when the Times published a cartoon on the opinion pages of its international print edition showing Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu as a dog with a Star of David around his collar on a leash leading U.S. President Donald Trump–depicted as blind and wearing a skullcap–around.
Under immense criticism, the Times on Saturday retracted the cartoon and issued an “editor’s note” in response admitting it was antisemitic and an “error in judgement to publish it.”
“A political cartoon in the international print edition of The New York Times on Thursday included anti-Semitic tropes, depicting the prime minister of Israel as a guide dog with a Star of David collar leading the president of the United States, shown wearing a skullcap,” the initial editor’s note on Saturday retracting the image reads. “The image was offensive, and it was an error of judgment to publish it. It was provided by The New York Times News Service and Syndicate, which has since deleted it.”
But, notably, that editor’s note is missing any actual apology from the Times for printing openly antisemitic content–and it is missing any details on how it happened, who is responsible, which official or officials inside the Times approved it or knew about it before it went to print in Thursday’s newspaper, whether anyone has faced any consequences, and what structural reforms the Times intends to implement to ensure it does not happen again.
Under immense pressure from critics including President Trump’s son Donald Trump, Jr., and Prime Minister Netanyahu’s son Yair Netanyahu–among many others–the Times finally on Sunday apologized for the “error in judgment” in a follow-up statement to the first editor’s note. The apology reveals a few new facts, including that there is a mass internal investigation into the matter, that the Times is blaming a single editor for the mistake but not naming said editor, and that the Times is promising “significant changes” to its newsroom structure to prevent future mistakes like this.
The New York Times said in its apology statement, the second official newspaper statement on this matter:
We are deeply sorry for the publication of an anti-Semitic political cartoon last Thursday in the print edition of The New York Times that circulates outside of the United States, and we are committed to making sure nothing like this happens again. Such imagery is always dangerous, and at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise worldwide, it’s all the more unacceptable. We have investigated how this happened and learned that, because of a faulty process, a single editor working without adequate oversight downloaded the syndicated cartoon and made the decision to include it on the Opinion page. The matter remains under review, and we are evaluating our internal processes and training. We anticipate significant changes.
But then, on Monday, it was revealed that in the weekend edition of the Times international edition published on Saturday–meaning it hit newsstands before the Times officially retracted the original antisemitic cartoon–the Times had published a second anti-Israel cartoon that has come under similarly significant scrutiny from the pro-Israel community.
Jonathan Greenblatt, the CEO of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), called the second cartoon from the Times “insensitive” and “inappropriate”:
This is insensitive, inappropriate, and offensive. It shows once again that the @NYTimes needs to educate its staff about #antiSemitism. We call on them to take immediate action. pic.twitter.com/6HBFxduKP7
— Jonathan Greenblatt (@JGreenblattADL) April 29, 2019
Other Jewish leaders like The Jewish Voice went further, calling the second one antisemitic like the first one:
ANOTHER antisemitic cartoon from the @nytimes.
Protest outside of NY Times headquarters tonight on 8th Avenue at 5:30 P.M.
— theJewish Voice (@JewishVoice) April 29, 2019
For hours on Monday after Breitbart News originally reached out to Murphy’s co-worker and fellow Times spokeswoman Danielle Rhoades-Ha on Monday morning, the newspaper remained silent on the second cartoon. But now, in a statement from Murphy to the Daily Beast late Monday evening, the Times–while claiming the second cartoon is not as bad as the first cartoon–is in the wake of this revelation completely suspending all cartoon publication.
“The cartoon that ran in the international print edition of The Times last Thursday was clearly anti-Semitic and indefensible and we apologize for its publication,” Murphy told the Daily Beast. “While we don’t think this [second] cartoon falls into that category, for now, we’ve decided to suspend the future publication of syndicated cartoons.”
Murphy’s comments on the second Times cartoon come in response, the Daily Beast’s Grove wrote, to criticisms that ADL’s Greenblatt leveled in an interview with the Daily Beast about the Times‘ misconduct.
“It looked like the Ten Commandments,” Greenblatt said of the second cartoon, “It might not be as blatantly anti-Semitic as the first cartoon, but it was clearly insensitive and absolutely offensive after the first piece of propaganda.”
Some experts have noted that the first cartoon resembles literal Nazi propaganda cartoons from 1940 that show a Jewish man on a leash leading British Prime Minister Winston Churchill around:
Pic 1: The Jew leads Winston Churchill.
Nazi Germany 1940.
— Kay Wilson (@kishkushkay) April 28, 2019
Greenblatt told the Daily Beast that the Times‘ apology was “a good start but it’s insufficient,” adding: “We need action and accountability. We don’t need apologies at this point.”
Interestingly, the Times continues to refuse to publicly name the editor it says made the decision to publish the first antisemitic cartoon and has provided scant details about the publication process for the second cartoon.
In its own piece on the matter published under New York Times reporter Stacy Cowley’s byline on the business pages of the Times, the Times explained a little more detail about where it came from and how the process played out with the publication of this cartoon.
The cartoon was drawn by the Portuguese cartoonist António Moreira Antunes and originally published by Expresso, a newspaper in Lisbon. It was then picked up by CartoonArts International, a syndicate for cartoons from around the world. The New York Times Licensing Group sells content from CartoonArts and other publishers along with material from The New York Times to news sites and other customers. The Times’s United States edition does not typically publish political cartoons and did not run this one, but the international edition frequently includes them. An editor from The Times’s Opinion section downloaded Mr. Antunes’s cartoon from the syndicate and made the decision to publish it, according to Ms. Murphy.
The Times‘ own piece noted that the Times is declining to publicly identify the editor it says is responsible.
“Ms. Murphy declined to identify the editor, who she said was ‘working without adequate oversight’ because of a ‘faulty process’ that is now being reviewed,” Cowley wrote, quoting the Times spokeswoman Eileen Murphy. “‘We are evaluating our internal processes and training,’ Ms. Murphy said. ‘We anticipate significant changes.'”
Cowley also quoted the editor of all Times editorial page content, James Bennet, as declining to comment further on what happened or who was responsible for it. “James Bennet, the editor who oversees all content on The Times’s editorial pages, declined to comment in detail,” Cowley wrote. “‘I’m going to let our statement speak for us at this point,’ Mr. Bennet said.”
Greenblatt, in his interview with the Daily Beast, said that the Times‘ efforts to pass this off as some kind of “clerical error” are not likely an accurate description of what happened.
They absolutely need policies and procedures. They need a clarification about how these decisions get made. And the person who would make such a decision to publish a cartoon like that, I think it’s kind of obvious that they don’t have the judgment that’s necessary to be in an institution like the Times… I think they need a thorough review and an overhaul of how those decisions get made. I don’t know, was it one person? Multiple people? I don’t think it’s very clear at this point. This wasn’t a misjudgment, it was a moral failing. It wasn’t a clerical error.
All of this comes in the wake of multiple investigative reports by Breitbart News on this matter, and continued public pressure from the pro-Israel community. The latest and highest profile criticism of the Times‘ antisemitism came from Ron Dermer, the Israeli ambassador to the United States, who at a public event on Monday in remembrance of the Holocaust bashed the Times as a “cesspool” of hatred.
“We have… seen one of the world’s most prestigious newspapers become a cesspool of hostility towards Israel that goes well beyond any legitimate criticism of a fellow, imperfect democracy,” Dermer said:
The same New York Times that a century ago mostly hid from their readers the Holocaust of the Jewish people has today made its pages a safe space for those who hate the Jewish state. Through biased coverage, slanderous columns and anti-Semitic cartoons, its editors shamefully choose week after week to cast the Jewish state as a force for evil.
Through Rhoades-Ha, the Times has not replied to requests for comment in response to Dermer’s criticisms against the newspaper. But the New York Post quotes an anonymous spokesperson to the Times, who also confirmed the news that the Times was cutting off its cartoon service, as declining to respond to Dermer.
“On Monday, a Times spokesperson told The Post that the paper has ‘suspended the future publication of syndicated cartoons,'” the Post’s Ben Feuerherd wrote late Monday. “The Times did not immediately respond to the ambassador’s comments.
Meanwhile, despite all of this and as the mess continues to grow and spread deeper into the Times newsroom, the Daily Caller reports–citing a Portuguese newspaper–that the cartoonist behind the original first antisemitic cartoon from last Thursday has now come forward to defend his work.
“It is a critique of Israeli policy, which has a criminal conduct in Palestine, at the expense of the UN, and not the Jews,” the cartoonist António Moreira Antunes, who according to the Caller’s report goes simply by “Antonio,” said in an interview with the Portuguese newspaper where he works, Expresso. The interview and article from Expresso was published in Portuguese.
As the Times continues its investigation, the newspaper keeps not answering the critical questions of who exactly was responsible for publishing these two cartoons–particularly the first one–and whether that person or those persons will face any consequences whatsoever, up to and including termination. The Times also has not answered what exact structural reforms it will implement internally to prevent this from happening again, and the Times has not replied when asked if it will, in the interest of transparency, make its entire internal investigation’s findings–including underlying source materials like interview transcripts or notes, emails, and text messages–publicly available so its readers can see what happened.
Greenblatt, in his interview with the Daily Beast, called on the newspaper to “institute sensitivity training for the staff on anti-Semitism.”
“Clearly they need it, to make sure they cover these issues with an eye toward focusing on the facts rather than perpetuating prejudice,” Greenblatt said. “And thirdly, I think they owe it to their readership to educate them on the persistent poison of anti-Jewish hate.”
The Times spokeswoman, the Daily Beast’s Grove wrote, would not entertain Greenblatt’s arguments for sensitivity training for all New York Times staff on antisemitism–or entertain Greenblatt’s push for the Times to fire the editor it says is responsible for this mishap to begin with.
“Murphy declined to comment on Greenblatt’s recommendation to start sensitivity training sessions, or his suggestion that the editor or editors involved shouldn’t be working for the Times,” Grove wrote.