The New York Times Repeatedly Called a Famous Cartoonist an Anti-Semite -- and Didn't Ask Him for Comment
Earlier this year, Portuguese cartoonist Antonio Moreira Antunes drew one of the most controversial political cartoons in history. His cartoon about U.S.-Israeli relations sparked so much controversy that The New York Times, whose international edition published it in April, decided to fire its two staff cartoonists, neither of whom had anything to do with it. Then the Times permanently banned all editorial cartooning.
Antunes took the most flak from the Times itself, as it furiously backpedaled from its own editorial decision to publish his cartoon. In five news stories and editorials, the newspaper of record unreservedly described Antunes' cartoon as anti-Semitic. American media outlets followed the Times' lead.
"I'm not anti-Semitic. I'm anti-Zionist," Antunes told me. "In the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, I am in favor of two countries, and I am against all annexations made by Israel." The Times censored Antunes' side of the story from its readers.
Was Antunes' cartoon, a metaphorical illustration depicting Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu holding the leash of a dog in the form of a blind President Donald Trump, anti-Semitic? That question is both inherently subjective and eminently debatable. "The cartoon is not anti-Semitic, but many political and religious sectors classify any criticism of Israeli policies as anti-Semitic," Antunes said in an interview.
Pro-Israel groups disagreed. On the other hand, many cartoonists thought there was nothing wrong with it.
But that's not how the Times covered it. In article after article, Antunes' cartoon was described as anti-Semitic. It was an objective truth. No one could doubt the cartoon's anti-Semitism more than the fact that Washington, D.C., is the capital of the United States.
"Times Apologizes for Publishing Anti-Semitic Cartoon," read the headline on April 28.
Not "allegedly anti-Semitic."
Not "cartoon criticized as anti-Semitic."
In an April 30 editorial, the paper called Antunes' work "an appalling political cartoon" and "an obviously bigoted cartoon." It explained: "The cartoon was chosen from a syndication service by a production editor who did not recognize its anti-Semitism." Not "its possible anti-Semitism."