John Leo

Marlette got in trouble with Roman Catholics, too, for a cartoon that dismissed the pope as a rockhead for not allowing female priests. When he was at New York Newsday, he ran these words of Jesus, "Upon this rock I will build my church," with an arrow running from the text to the pope's skull. A few days later, Newsday issued a "memo" of regret "that many readers were given an unintended message." Marlette called this "regret" the first apology ever offered on one of his cartoons in 22 years. He announced that he had encountered more timidity and censorship in New York than in his native South.

The classics of over-the-top cartooning include a 1999 Sean Delonas effort in the New York Post showing a Jewish doctor attempting to remove a cancerous tumor from Louis Farrakhan by sawing off his head. Five months after 9/11, Mike Marland of the Concord (N.H.) Monitor drew a cartoon of George Bush flying an airplane into the twin towers (marked "Social Security.") Marland apologized (as he should have), and his editor was fired.

On the right, in his usually very funny comic strip B.C., Johnny Hart, an evangelical Christian, did an Easter cartoon that offended many Jews. It showed a menorah fading into a cross, accompanied by Jesus's dying words and an open tomb symbolizing his resurrection. Hart insisted he was trying to honor Jews as well as Christians, but the burned-out candles of the menorah seemed to tell Jews that their religion was defunct.

On the left, Ted Rall regularly produces wretched-excess cartoons. One dismissed Colin Powell and Condoleezza Rice as "house slaves." Other Rall strips attacked some widows and relatives of 9/11 victims, as well as the widow of Daniel Pearl, the Wall Street Journal reporter kidnapped and murdered by fanatics in Pakistan. Rall depicted Pearl's widow as a publicity hound, making pointless and tacky appearances on many shows. He depicted her at a microphone, saying, "It's a bummer that they slashed my husband's throat -- but the worst was having to watch the Olympics alone."

Rall, who positions himself as a sort of Howard Stern of cartoons, has naturally attracted many detractors. I don't much like his work, but there are many columnists and authors who go too far without attracting posses determined to eject them from the local paper. Let's avoid sensitivity censorship. Let them be.

John Leo

John Leo is editor of and a former contributing editor at U.S. News and World Report.

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