Michael Ramirez, the political cartoonist whose work mocking Hamas was pulled by The Washington Post following internal and external backlash, is speaking out about the “unfortunate” episode restricting free speech.
The cartoon titled “Human shields” depicted the terrorist group’s spokesperson saying, “How dare Israel attack civilians,” while a frightened-looking woman and four small children remain bound with rope to his body.
“I think it’s empirically true that Hamas uses civilians, both Palestinians and Israelis, as human shields,” Ramirez told Fox News Digital in an interview Friday. “I don’t think it’s a hidden knowledge that they operate their bases in densely populated areas and under civilian infrastructure, including hospitals, they fire rockets from densely residential areas, and by design, to sacrifice the lives of the innocent people.”
Ramirez, who is employed by the Las Vegas Review-Journal, has a collaborative agreement with the Washington Post so that his work simultaneously appears in both papers on Tuesdays and Saturdays.
While the paper ultimately retracted the anti-Hamas cartoon, the Review-Journal is standing behind it.
He predicted his cartoon would spark some sort of visceral reaction among some based on the current political climate but suggested those who claim to be advocating for innocent Palestinians “have a tendency to kind of erase the boundaries” when it comes to Hamas.
The conservative-leaning Ramirez shed light on his working relationship with Post opinions editor David Shipley, who handpicked the anti-Hamas cartoon after the cartoonist provided multiple options for him to choose from.
“In this case, we both thought that was a bold cartoon,” Ramirez said.
It didn’t take long for outrage on social media to mount but also within The Washington Post newsroom as the paper’s executive editor Sally Buzbee wrote in an email Wednesday to staff acknowledging the “many deep concerns” that were made.
Left-wing critics accused the cartoon of being racist, pointing to the exaggerated features depicted in the cartoon of Hamas spokesman Ghazi Hamad. Ramirez rejected such claims, sending Fox News Digital examples of other political figures he has drawn including former President Trump, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, and Sen. John Fetterman, D-Penn., all having similar features.
But the pressure both internally and externally reached a boiling point as Shipley deleted the cartoon from the Post’s website, replacing it with an apologetic editor’s note and letters from readers condemning the illustration.
A Washington Post insider told Fox News Digital “a number of people inside and outside were offended by the caricature, both of the man and the woman,” and it was more about that than being bothered by Hamas being depicted negatively.
“Passions are running so high right now that something is/was bound to set people off. But it can be hard to predict what it will be. Did I think this would be the spark that led to an explosion? No,” they said, adding they agreed with the sentiment that Hamas was deplorable.
Ramirez said Shipley “begged” him not to walk away over the deletion.
“He knew that I wasn’t happy with it… And he begged me not to quit,” Ramirez said. “And honestly, I thought about the consequences of that. If I quit, then the cancel culture people win because they basically exorcise the Washington Post of my cartoon, and I didn’t want to give them that luxury.”
“So I told David I would do two more cartoons for the Washington Post and just see how it goes and then reassess our relationship,” Ramirez added.
While he stressed that he liked Shipley and respected his effort to “expand The Washington Post to accommodate a larger variety of views,” Ramirez called this episode “unfortunate.”
“I think David resisted the idea of doing this initially. And he was very apologetic to me for doing this,” Ramirez said.
He added he’s happy the cartoon has sparked a debate about the “systematic undermining of the freedom of speech.”
“I want an open debate. I think America is better, more extraordinary because of that,” he said.
The two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning artist told Fox News Digital he will have a cartoon addressing what transpired published in Sunday’s edition of the Review-Journal and will pen a piece to accompany it.
Offering a preview of what he will say, Ramirez cited the Washington Post’s motto “Democracy Dies in Darkness,” saying “When the protests and rancor of a distressed newsroom offended by a cartoon exposing the truth causes adults to retreat to their safe spaces, clutching their participation trophies and cancel the freedom of speech, these are truly dark days.”
A spokesperson for The Washington Post cited the editor’s note and declined to comment further.
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