The New York Times on Sunday apologized for a cartoon published in the Opinion pages of its international edition that drew widespread condemnation for being anti-Semitic.
The cartoon, which was published Thursday in the print newspaper, portrayed a blind President Donald Trump, wearing a skullcap, being led by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu of Israel, drawn as a dog on a leash with a Star of David collar.
“The image was offensive, and it was an error of judgment to publish it,” The New York Times said in an editor’s note that will be published in Monday’s international edition.
Eileen Murphy, a New York Times spokeswoman, said the paper was “deeply sorry” for publishing the cartoon.
“Such imagery is always dangerous, and at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise worldwide, it’s all the more unacceptable,” Murphy said in a statement on behalf of the Opinion section. “We are committed to making sure nothing like this happens again.”
The cartoon drew hundreds of critical comments from people worldwide. The Jerusalem Post, The Times of Israel, CNN, Fox News and others published articles about the cartoon.
“Apology not accepted,” the American Jewish Committee said in response to The Times’ editor’s note. “What does this say about your processes or your decision makers? How are you fixing it?”
Such imagery is always dangerous, and at a time when anti-Semitism is on the rise worldwide, it’s all the more unacceptable
The cartoon was drawn by Portuguese cartoonist António Moreira Antunes and originally published by Expresso, a newspaper in Lisbon. It was then picked up by CartoonArts International, a syndicate for cartoons from around the world.
The New York Times Licensing Group sells content from CartoonArts and other publishers along with material from The New York Times to news sites and other customers.
The Times’ U.S. edition does not typically publish political cartoons and did not run this one, but the international edition frequently includes them. An editor from The Times’ Opinion section downloaded Antunes’ cartoon from the syndicate and made the decision to publish it, according to Murphy.
Murphy declined to identify the editor, who she said was “working without adequate oversight” because of a “faulty process” that is now being reviewed.
“We are evaluating our internal processes and training,” Murphy said. “We anticipate significant changes.”
James Bennet, the editor who oversees all content on The Times’ editorial pages, declined to comment in detail. “I’m going to let our statement speak for us at this point,” Bennet said.
Bret Stephens, an opinion columnist for The Times, wrote about the issue Sunday and called on the newspaper to do “some serious reflection as to how it came to publish that cartoon,” which he called “an astonishing act of ignorance of anti-Semitism.” And Vice President Mike Pence tweeted Sunday, “We stand with Israel and we condemn antisemitism in ALL its forms.”
There is always fear, but there is no other option but to defend freedom of expression
Sergio Florez, managing editor for The Times’ Licensing Group, said the group took in 30 or more cartoons a week from CartoonArts through an automated feed to its website, where publishers can look through the cartoons and buy a license to reprint them. The group’s editors sporadically review the feed and remove work that is biased or racist, he said.
“Had we seen this cartoon in one of those sweeps, we definitely would have pulled it,” Florez said. The cartoon has been deleted from the Licensing Group’s collection, he said.
Nancy Lee, executive editor of the Licensing Group, said the group would review its arrangement with CartoonArts.
The company’s licensing deal with The Times goes back several decades, Lee said. CartoonArts, based in New York, was founded in 1978 by cartoonist Jerry Robinson to bring global cartoons to a wider audience. It is now run by his son, Jens Robinson.
“We receive and post cartoons from around the world of many shades of political opinion,” Jens Robinson said by email. “The cartoon in question was viewed as political commentary. However, we understand the decision to remove it from the website.”
Expresso, the Portuguese newspaper, did not respond to requests for comment, and Antunes could not be reached. He has been a regular cartoonist for the paper since 1974, according to an online biography.
“The profession of cartoonist is a profession of risk,” Antunes said in an interview with the Portuguese Observer in 2015, after the fatal attack in Paris on the staff of the satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo. “There is always fear, but there is no other option but to defend freedom of expression.”