COLUMBIA, Mo. — The co-owners of a family-owned Missouri newspaper resigned from their positions in protest Wednesday after the publication of a racist syndicated cartoon that depicted a black man stealing a purse from a white woman while hailing funding cuts to police.
The cartoon published in the Washington Missourian shows a white woman asking for someone to call 911, but the masked black man says, “Good luck with that, lady … we defunded the police.”
The cartoon was published amid protests across the nation against police brutality and the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis. Some protesters are pushing to “ defund the police ” — a wide-ranging catch-all term for shifting law enforcement resources – over the death of Floyd and other black Americans killed by law enforcement.
Washington Missourian owners and sisters Susan Miller and Jeanne Miller Wood said in an apology that the newspaper’s publisher — their father — made the decision to run the cartoon and didn’t let them know in advance.
“As co-owners we believe it was racist and in no circumstance should have been published,” they wrote of the cartoon. “We apologize to our readers and our staff for the obvious pain and offence it caused. For the record, we abhor the sentiment and denounce ANY form of racism.”
Publisher Bill Miller Sr. subsequently wrote in a column that the cartoon was meant to convey opposition to defunding police but was “racially insensitive.”
“It was poor judgement on my part and for that I sincerely apologize,” he wrote.
The co-owners said they resigned in protest because they don’t have editorial control to prevent something like this happening again. They also said the publication of the cartoon hits close to home because it was their father who chose to run it.
“Many families have been having these painful discussions in the privacy of their homes,” they wrote. “We unfortunately have to have this debate in a more public way.”
It’s not clear what the sisters’ resignations mean for their ownership of the newspaper.
The cartoon was distributed by Creators, which in a statement said: “Black Lives Matter. Black voices matter. We condemn racism in all forms.” The company has pulled the cartoon and says it’s not aware of it being published anywhere else.
“As a media distributor, Creators neither controls nor censors the content we receive from our writers and artists,” the company’s statement said. “However, in this instance, this editorial cartoon should not have been sent and we have pulled the cartoon from all distribution platforms.”
Cartoonist Tom Stiglich, who made the cartoon, told St. Louis television station KSDK-TV that the nation needs “more law and order right now, not less.”
“The rioting and looting was extremely disheartening,” he told the station. “That cartoon was based solely on violent crime numbers here in the US. To ignore that would be doing a disservice to the reader.”
Summer Ballentine, The Associated Press