Seal, other sheriffs upset by editorial cartoon

Published 7:03 am Friday, August 19, 2016

Washington Parish Sheriff Randy Seal and St. Tammany Sheriff Randy Smith were among the public officials disappointed by the Times-Picayune’s recent decision to publish a controversial editorial cartoon.

The cartoon, which was published in the Times-Picayune’s Monday, Aug. 15, edition, depicts an image of two white police officers. The officer on the left is holding a piece of paper that has “Miranda Rights” written on it, and an arrow is pointing to the paper, along with the words “For white people.” The officer on the right has a piece of paper that has “Last Rites” written on it, and an arrow with the words “For black people.”

Mike Lukovich, of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, drew the cartoon.

“I strongly object to the inflammatory cartoon reflecting different responses to ‘white people’ and ‘black people,’” Seal said, in a statement sent to local media, including the Times-Picayune. “At a time when our country is being divided by various agendas, you chose to publish this very inappropriate statement which serves no purpose other than to inflame passions and pander to misconceptions. Shame on you for engaging in such brash and unprofessional yellow journalism which violates every tenet of professional ethics.

“You owe every law enforcement officer a personal apology for your extremely inappropriate behavior and, at the least, you should publish a strong retraction.

“Meanwhile, I encourage all law-abiding citizens to refrain from purchasing any print copy of The Times-Picayune and to avoid any businesses which support you with advertising dollars. Our community deserves much better than what you provide.”

Smith concurred with Seal’s disappointment.

“During a time when our country is in dire need of unity, The Times Picayune decided to publish this racially divisive political cartoon in an attempt to insert an even bigger wedge between law enforcement and our citizens,” Smith said, in a statement. “Even worse, they decide to publish this in the middle of a natural disaster when all first responders, and citizens alike, are pulling together to help one another.”

The cartoon was also the subject of lively debate, both national and local, in social media.

The Times-Picayune’s editorial board responded to the controversy with a statement claiming it wished to make a point about “systemic racism in the Baltimore Police Department,” yet regretted the generic uniform of the officer depicted, “skewering all law enforcement, including those in our own community.”

Times-Picayune Editor Mark Lorando said that the cartoon “should not have run.”