Some reporters are ignoring that a Washington Post cartoon portrayed Sen. Ted Cruz’s daughters as dancing monkeys and are instead focusing on the Texas senator’s general dislike for the “mainstream media.”
“Ted Cruz obtained new ammunition Tuesday to shoot at his favorite bogeyman, the mainstream media, after The Washington Post depicted his two young daughters as monkey-like characters doing the bidding of their father,” CNN’s Theodore Schleifer reported.
The headline to the CNN story failed to mention what it was that people found so objectionable about the cartoon, and said the Post pulled a cartoon that merely depicted Cruz’s daughters.
A USA Today headline likewise avoided mentioning that the editorial cartoon portrayed the senator’s daughters as monkeys, and said only, “Paper pulls cartoon showing Cruz’s children.”
Cruz’s daughters, Caroline, 7, and Catherine, 5, are “fair game” after they appeared in a Christmas-themed video with their father, Post cartoonist Ann Telnaes declared Tuesday. She followed up with this statement by publishing a cartoon depicting the 2016 GOP presidential candidate as an organ grinder and his two young daughters as dancing monkeys.
“There is an unspoken rule in editorial cartooning that a politician’s children are off-limits. People don’t get to choose their family members so obviously it’s unfair to ridicule kids for their parent’s behavior while in office or on the campaign trail- besides, they’re children,” Telnaes wrote Tuesday.
“But when a politician uses his children as political props, as Ted Cruz recently did in his Christmas parody video in which his eldest daughter read (with her father’s dramatic flourish) a passage of an edited Christmas classic, then I figure they are fair game,” she added.
The online backlash to the cartoon was immediate, sparking furious debate on social media about whether Telnaes had too far.
But the press wanted to talk about Cruz.
In its initial coverage of the story, Politico turned its focus away from the content of the cartoon, and fixated instead on the senator’s response.
“Cruz lashes out at Post cartoonist for depicting his daughters as monkeys,” read the original headline to a story published on Dec. 22.
That headline has since been amended so that it now reads, “Washington Post removes cartoon depicting Ted Cruz’s daughters as monkeys.” The original version of the Politico story also failed to mention that the cartoon depicted Cruz’s children as primates.
The Post eventually deleted the cartoon from its website late Tuesday evening, and an editor issued a statement explaining that he hadn’t reviewed her work prior to publication.
“It’s generally been the policy of our editorial section to leave children out of it,” Post editor Fred Hiatt said in a statement.
“I failed to look at this cartoon before it was published. I understand why Ann thought an exception to the policy was warranted in this case, but I do not agree,” he added.
But even after removing the offending image, the Post mostly avoided talking about its content, and instead focused on the senator’s response.
“Media-bashing Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz was handed a political gift Tuesday night when The Washington Post retracted an editorial cartoon that depicted his two young daughters as monkeys,” wrote Callum Borchers.
“Whether you agree with Telnaes’s original reasoning or Hiatt’s overriding rationale, one thing should be obvious to any political observer: This is a win for a candidate who … has been highly critical of the press,” he added.
Borchers went on to explain the two things that the cartoon flap does for Cruz’s campaign.
“One, it gives him a piece of evidence to pull out whenever he wants to argue that the loathsome ‘mainstream media’ doesn’t treat him — or conservatives in general — fairly,” the Post reported wrote.
“Two, the Post’s retraction makes the anti-establishment pushback of Cruz and his supporters seem effective,” he added. “Having The Post yank the cartoon allows him to look like he gets results from those predisposed against his — and his supporters’ — worldview.”
Prior to the newspaper pulling Telnaes’ blog post, Cruz pushed back against her cartoon, telling the newspaper in a tweet to leave his family out of it.
And the senator continued his war of words with the Post Wednesday, telling an audience in Tulsa that the now-deleted cartoon was a below-the-belt cheap shot.
“Folks want to attack me, knock yourself out. That’s part of the process. I signed up for that. That’s fine, but my girls didn’t sign up for that,” he said.
“We ought to agree, leave our kids alone. Let’s argue about marginal tax rates. Let’s argue about policy but don’t be attacking five-year-old girls.” He added, “Don’t mess with our kids. Don’t mess with my kids. .. Don’t mess with anybody’s kids.”
The press’ reaction so far to the cartoon stands in sharp contrast to how it reacted in 2014 after an obscure GOP staffer was caught on Facebook criticizing Sasha and Malia Obama.
In a now-deleted post published on Thanksgiving Day, Elizabeth Lauten, the former communications director for Rep. Steve Fincher, R-Tenn., wrote in reference to the annual White House turkey pardon, “Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you’re both in those awful teen years, but you’re a part of the First Family, try showing a little class.”
The backlash online was swift, and the press was not far behind, digging deep into anything it could find on Lauten.
“The media camped out at Lauten’s parents home, dug into her background and chased down childhood friends for information about her,” RedState’s Leon Wolf recalled Wednesday.
Lauten later apologized for her comments, writing on social media, “After many hours of prayer, talking to my parents, and re-reading my words online, I can see more clearly just how hurtful my words were. I’d like to apologize to all of those who I have hurt and offended with my words, and I pledge to learn and grow (and I assure you I have) from this experience.”
But by then it was too late: Her remarks about the Obama girls had become a national news event, leading the major networks one night in December, and she soon forced to tender her resignation.
In contrast, there does not appear that there will be any disciplinary action taken against Telnaes, and it looks like the press’ interest in the story won’t extend past covering how Sen. Cruz has handled the entire ordeal.