SENECA, S.C. (FOX Carolina) - The Seneca Journal faced heated criticism after a controversial cartoon ran in Wednesday's newspaper.
We received several tips about the cartoon that appeared in the Opinion section on June 10, 2020. The cartoon, inked by nationally-syndicated cartoonist Al Goodwyn, shows a woman handling two children, with the words "black community" drawn on her clothing. Behind her, a donkey representing the Democratic party lounges on a torn-up couch, drinking beer and surrounded by what appears to be discarded beer cans. In two speech bubbles, the woman says "I can't leave him. We've been together for decades. Plus, he says we'd never survive on her own".
Goodwyn's cartoon was an apparent critique on the relationship between black Americans and the Democratic party, one that sparked anger among several members of the community in Seneca. We spoke with a handful of people who voiced their outrage to the paper, and on camera to FOX Carolina.
W.C. Honeycutt, Jr., pastor at Ebenezer Baptist Church, said the cartoon displayed "every stereotype there could possibly be for black people," and says the cartoon surmises the relationship between black people and the Democratic party is an abusive, controlling one.
Meanwhile, Tom von Kaenel, a resident of Six Mile and president of the Clemson Rotary Club, says the cartoon is doing damage during a time when citizens are trying to heal together and unite amidst divisive times.
"We are damaging what has already been damaged, and re-injuring that wound," he told us.
Curtis White, a Seneca resident, echoed the statements from both theHoneycutt and von Kaenel, saying "there needs to be some repercussions" for cartoonist Goodwyn.
After the outrage circulated on social media, The Journal issued a lengthy apology letter on their Facebook page, in which they shifted blame to a hectic Tuesday covering elections. The paper said the pages were not reviewed with normal attention to content because of that, noting an editorial piece in the "Guest Views" section that was printed was from another newspaper entirely.
The text of the apology post follows:
Sometimes, there’s almost nothing else to say.
As a newspaper, we are supposed to be a reflection of our community — one community. Not a white community or a black one, but one community. We failed in that yesterday … miserably. We printed a painful reminder of the division we all feel right now.
There are no words we can put here that will erase the mistake that was made Wednesday in publishing such an offensive editorial cartoon.
It is not lost on us the pain and anger that many of you felt. But we own that. It was our mistake, and if you’ll allow us, we’ll do everything within our power to be inclusive and reflective of our entire community.
Political cartoons are powerful tools that are designed to make you laugh or think about a given situation. But they’re not supposed to make you hurt. Wednesday’s depiction of an African-American family did just that.
It made you hurt — many of you.
People are angry with us, and they have a right to be. They want policies changed and someone fired, and we’re going to do that.
We purchased that cartoon and many others from nationally syndicated cartoonist Al Goodwyn. That cartoon may have appeared in dozens of newspapers around the country on Wednesday, but he won’t be working for us anymore.
Procedurally, this was a terrible mistake. On a normal night, the newspaper is finished early and several people read over it. But Tuesday night was election night, and with results coming in so late, we weren’t finished until well after midnight, and the pages weren’t reviewed with the normal attention to detail. Even the editorial centerpiece on the page was a “Guest View” from another newspaper.
In short, we rushed and we skipped part of our own internal controls, and we know better. Moving forward, all cartoons will have to be approved prior to being placed on our pages as well. They’ll be treated the same way a story gets treated.
On Wednesday, we met with several leaders from the African-American community to apologize and explain, and we want you to know that our doors are open — and our hearts are as well.
That cartoon does not reflect the views or the values of this newspaper, its staff, management or ownership.
We sincerely apologize for the cartoon, and we hope that you will find it in your hearts to accept our apology, forgive us, and trust us to take the steps necessary to be sure this never happens here again.
FOX Carolina reached out to The Journal for further comment. As of writing, we have not heard back from them.