The Washington Post is going through a woke struggle session following the publication of a political cartoon that satirized the U.S.-designated terrorist group Hamas.
The group is currently embroiled in a war with Israel following its incursion into southern Israel on October 7, when it killed as many as 1,400 people, including partygoers at a desert rave and residents of a kibbutz.
The cartoon, which appeared in both the print and online editions of the newspaper, depicted a Hamas spokesperson using human shields, a portrayal that triggered significant backlash among the publication's staffers.
Executive editor Sally Buzbee addressed the newsroom's concerns in an email, referring to an explanatory note sent to Post readers and staff by opinions editor David Shipley. In his message, Shipley expressed regret for approving the cartoon, acknowledging that it was perceived by many as racist, an outcome he had not intended.
Shipley explained that his initial interpretation saw the cartoon as a critique of a specific Hamas spokesperson's actions. However, the strong reactions highlighted an oversight in his judgment, leading to the decision to remove the cartoon from the Post's platforms.
As editor of the opinion section, I am responsible for what appears in its pages and on its screens. The section depends on my judgment.
A cartoon published by Michael Ramirez on the war in Gaza, a cartoon whose publication I approved, was seen by many readers as racist. This was not my intent. I saw the drawing as a caricature of a specific individual, the Hamas spokesperson, who celebrated the attacks on unarmed civilians in Israel.
However, the reaction to the image convinced me that I had missed something profound, and divisive, and I regret that. Our section is aimed at finding commonalities, understanding the bonds that hold us together, even in the darkest times.
In this spirit, we have taken down the drawing. We are also pushing a selection of responses to the caricature. And we will continue to make the section home to a range of views and perspectives, including ones that challenge readers.
This is the spirit of opinion journalism, to move imperfectly toward a constructive exchange of ideas at all possible speed, listening and learning along the way.
The email was leaked to the Washington Free Beacon, which first ran the story.
In addition to pulling the cartoon, the Post also published a range of reader responses to the cartoon. Criticisms included accusations of racial stereotyping and insensitivity to the complex dynamics of the Gaza Strip conflict.
Some letters argued that the cartoon unfairly attributed the deaths of Palestinian civilians to Hamas rather than the Israelis. However, not all feedback was negative. Some readers praised the cartoon for effectively capturing the essence of Hamas's tactics.
This incident is not the first time the Post has faced criticism for its coverage of the Israel-Hamas conflict, with previous reports suggesting a dilution of pro-Hamas rhetoric and questions raised about the sources used in reporting on the war.