Washington Post opinion editor David Shipley hand-selected the cartoon lampooning Hamas that he pulled amid blowback, the cartoon's author, Michael Ramirez, told the Washington Free Beacon in an interview.
Ramirez, a veteran political cartoonist who has twice won the Pulitzer Prize, said he presented Shipley with "seven, eight, or nine different sketches on a wide variety of topics" for the Post editor to choose from. Shipley, Ramirez said, "right off the bat" picked a cartoon that depicted Hamas leader Ghazi Hamad using women and children as human shields while saying, "How dare Israel attack civilians."
Ramirez's original sketch of Hamad, which the Free Beacon obtained, included the same features that Post reporters Elahe Izadi and Will Sommer later identified as problematic—mainly Hamad's "large nose and snarling mouth." When Shipley on Wednesday responded to criticism of the cartoon by pulling it, he wrote in an editor's note that he "approved" the cartoon, but his role in the decision to produce and publish the cartoon was more substantial, according to Ramirez.
Shipley, who did not return a request for comment, joined the Post as the paper's editorial page editor in July 2022. He has worked to bring conservative voices to the Post's opinion section, announcing in January the addition of Jim Geraghty, Ramesh Ponnuru, and Ruy Teixeira as political columnists. Ramirez, meanwhile, joined the paper in May in an agreement that allows him to publish his cartoons in both the Post and the Las Vegas Review-Journal, where he has worked since 2018.
Still, Shipley's decision to remove Ramirez's cartoon reflects the power the Post's left-wing newsroom holds over its leaders. In a Wednesday night email to staffers, the paper's executive editor, Sally Buzbee, referenced her newsroom's "many deep concerns" over the cartoon, the Free Beacon reported.
Ramirez expressed his disappointment over his cartoon's removal, calling the move "a blow against … the freedom of speech."
"When the intellectually indolent try to defend the indefensible, they always seem to resort to playing the race card," Ramirez told the Free Beacon. "They're trying to claim that this caricature is a racial exercise, when in its specificity, it is Ghazi Hamad, who is a senior Hamas official, who went on Lebanese television praising the brutal Oct. 7 attack and systematic slaughter of women, children, and men and pledged to do it over and over again until the annihilation of Israel."
"I am presenting this because I think this is a blow against democracy and the freedom of speech," Ramirez continued. "I'm a big believer that America has to have the free expression of ideas to advance thinking."
In addition to Buzbee's note addressing her newsroom's "concerns" with the cartoon, the Post published letters to the editor that maligned Ramirez's cartoon as "deeply malicious," "deeply racist," and "full of bias and prejudice." Shipley referred to those letters in his editor's note, writing that the cartoon "was seen by many readers as racist."
"The reaction to the image convinced me that I had missed something profound, and divisive, and I regret that," Shipley said. "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."
Ramirez said he "thought about quitting" after the paper's response but ultimately decided to stay for the time being, saying that he "did not want it to appear that this cancel culture had succeeded in pushing me out of the job." Ramirez plans to produce "a couple more cartoons" for the Post and "see what the landscape looks like" before determining "whether or not to continue this relationship," he told the Free Beacon.
"You don't have to be a mind-reading person to think that this was going to occur," Ramirez said. "It just seems to be the way these newsrooms are politically designed."