Texas Governor Rick Perry is 'extremely disgusted'.
The Sacramento Bee, on Thursday, published a Jack Ohman editorial cartoon titled "Business in Texas". The cartoon presents Perry standing at a podium behind a banner extolling the state's low taxes and low regulations, while exclaiming, "Business is BOOMING in Texas!"
Perry's letter continued and he demanded an apology from The Bee on the behalf of West, Texas.
Additionally, publishing this on the very day our state and nation paused to honor and mourn those who died only compounds the pain and suffering of the many Texans who lost family and friends in this disaster. The Bee owes the community of West, Texas an immediate apology for your detestable attempt at satire.Perry wasn't alone in his criticism of the cartoon. Ohman explained that "several readers" expressed their "varying levels of concern about the cartoon depicting Gov. Rick Perry's marketing of Texas' loose regulations, juxtaposed with the explosion of the fertilizer plant in West, Texas."
Ohman wrote that he was being accused of being "insensitive and tasteless". To which he responded: "Let's explore the question of tastelessness." He notes that the fertilizer plant had not been inspected by the state for seven years. Its last inspection was in 2006.
Gov. Perry travels the country, Ohman explained, describing Texas as a "state as free from high taxes and burdensome regulation". "One of the burdensome regulations he neglected to mention was the fact that his state hadn't really gotten around to checking out that fertilizer plant," Ohman wrote. Zoning laws are also lax to non-existant.
"So when the plant exploded and killed 14 people, people started asking the inevitable questions about whether this tragedy could have been prevented," Ohman wrote.
Gov. Perry's name and the explosion have been linked for several news cycles. I didn't just make this all up. It's out there. There is a rather stunning report about all this on ProPublica, the investigative news website. I invite you to read it.Ohman explains his job is to cause "readers think about an issue in a striking way", which he believes he succeeded in doing with his cartoon and that his cartoon is not in poor taste.
Having said that, what normal person doesn't mourn those poor people fighting the fire and living by the plant? I certainly do. What makes me angry, and, yes, I am driven by anger, is that it could have been prevented. I guess I could have done a toned-down version of the cartoon; I am not sure what that would have been, but I think many readers' objections just stemmed from the fact that I used the explosion as a metaphor, period. The wound is fresh, the hurt still stings.Ohman's essay is a strong defense of his profession and powerful explanation of what motivates him to draw and speak out. He concludes:
The Texas governor's campaigning notwithstanding, should I have used the explosion as a vehicle to illustrate my point? I did. I stand by it.
I'm defending this one because I think that when you have a politician traveling across the country selling a state with low regulatory capacity, that politician also has to be accountable for what happens when that lack of regulation proves to be fatal.Ohman "had to draw" the cartoon, because Texas decided not to send a regulator to West to inspect the plant. Maybe if Texas had sent someone to check it out between 2006-2013, then there would not have an explosion killing victims and causing grieving families, he explained.
That's exponentially more offensive to me.
My job, as I understand it, is to be provocative. I provoke, you decide. I don't dictate, I put out my opinion along with everyone else. I sign my name. I own it. In my opinion, I could have gone further. Much further.
"Gambling with the lives of innocent people is much more offensive to me. That's way worse than tasteless. It's reckless," Ohman concluded.
The newspaper has Ohman's back. Stuart Leavenworth, the editorial page editor for The Bee, wrote:
Jack Ohman's cartoon of April 25 made a strong statement about Gov. Rick Perry's disregard for worker safety, and his attempts to market Texas as a place where industries can thrive with few regulations. It is unfortunate that Gov. Perry, and some on the blogosphere, have attempted to interpret the cartoon as being disrespectful of the victims of this tragedy. As Ohman has made clear on his blog, he has complete empathy for the victims and people living by the plant. What he finds offensive is a governor who would gamble with the lives of families by not pushing for the strongest safety regulations. Perry's letter is an attempt to distract people from that message.What Perry wants to distract people from is the fact that he continues to use lax regulations as a lure to get businesses to relocate to Texas. Jack Ohman is disgusted that people like Rick Perry gamble with peoples lives to make a buck.
If anyone owes the community of West, Texas an apology, then that person is Gov. Rick Perry. Oops.