Rall's 'Tillman' Cartoon Pulled by MSNBC.com
By Dave Astor
Published: May 03, 2004
A cartoon questioning late footballer-turned-soldier Pat Tillman's credentials as a "hero" was pulled from MSNBC.com this afternoon. The drawing also brought Ted Rall 110 e-mails in less than 15 minutes.
The volume of mail had much to do with the cartoon being mentioned on the Drudge Report site, seen by many conservatives. Drudge linked to MSNBC.com until the cartoon was yanked. Then Drudge linked to the cartoon at Universal Press Syndicate's site ( http://www.ucomics.com).
In a statement posted on its site, MSNBC.com said Rall's cartoons, like those by other creators, are "published daily on the site via an automated syndication feed. Such feeds are rarely reviewed. However, MSNBC.com Editor in Chief Dean Wright concluded Monday's Rall item did not meet MSNBC.com standards of fairness and taste."
Rall said in the cartoon that Tillman -- who gave up a $3.6-million National Football League contract to join the military and then died last month -- "falsely believed Bush's wars against Iraq and Afghanistan had something to do with 9/11. Actually, he was a cog in a low-rent occupation Army that shot more innocent civilians than terrorists to prop up puppet rulers and exploit gas and oil resources. So when Tillman got killed by the Afghan resistance, one word naturally came to mind: 'Uh -- idiot?' [says one person in the cartoon's final panel]. 'Sap?' [says another]. 'Hero!' [says an editor]."
When E&P called Rall, he had only received one message about the cartoon. But, as the interview went on, the messages started pouring in. A few were positive, but most were vicious. As Rall opened each e-mail for the first time, he quoted briefly from each one. "You make me sick"; "lies and distortions"; "move to France"; "I pity you"; "disgusting"; "sad and pathetic"; "f--- you, you coward bastard"; "I will s--t on your grave"; "horrendous"; "rot in hell"; "freak"; "I hope you're killed by an Arab terrorist attack"; "people died to publish the b.s. you do."
Rall, who traveled to Afghanistan as a cartoonist/writer after 9/11, told E&P: "The word 'hero' has been bandied about a lot to refer to anyone killed in Afghanistan or Iraq. But anyone who voluntarily goes to Afghanistan or Iraq [as a soldier] is fighting for an evil cause under an evil commander in chief."
"Tillman gave up millions of dollars," Rall added. "To that extent I think he's admirable, but the cause is not. ... He would have been a better person and a better husband if he took the $3.6 million and played football and left the poor and beleaguered people of Afghanistan and Iraq alone."
Rall's editorial cartoons have 140 clients (roughly half of them print newspapers). Universal Director of Communications Kathie Kerr said today that there has been "no reaction from editors as of yet, but a few e-mails from readers who oppose" the cartoon.