On Sunday night, several readers e-mailed to let me know about a cartoon in the Imperial Valley (CA) Press that upset them immensely.
Reader Marty sent the jpeg. It shows two young skateboarder punks looking up at a campaign poster. The candidate is not identified. He is bald and wears an eye patch. The punks crack jokes about the candidate’s physical disability and appearance:
(click for full size newspaper clipping)
The candidate is Republican Nick Popaditch, a war hero, 15-year Marine, and Silver Star/Purple Heart recipient who became famous around the world after the Associated Press snapped a cigar-smoking photo of him and his unit pulling down the statue of Saddam Hussein and celebrating in April 2003. Popaditch was critically wounded in Fallujah a year later by an RPG to the head. Watch more here:
Everyone should know this man’s incredible story of courage and sacrifice. Forget Lindsay Lohan’s disgusting fingernails. Tell your kids about how Popaditch lost his eye, survived, and returned to public service stronger than ever.
As for the cartoon: Popaditch’s Democrat opponent is blasting it. The paper is scheduled to issue an apology tomorrow. And Popaditch has exactly the right attitude about it:
Filner and Popaditch are rivals in the 51st Congressional District, which covers Imperial County and much of the border region of San Diego County.
Filner, chairman of the House Veterans Affairs Committee, said he hopes the newspaper “would educate the public on how we can support our troops as they return home.”
Popaditch said he was not bothered by the cartoon. “I’ve got much thicker skin than that,” he said. “It’s not going to hurt me in any way.”
But he said he was concerned that other wounded veterans might feel that the cartoon suggests that it is acceptable to poke fun at war wounds.
In a phone call, editor Brad Jennings apologized to Popaditch. He has promised an apology in Tuesday’s paper. Jennings said the cartoon was meant to satirize how ill-informed many voters are about the Iraq war.
The cartoon was poorly executed. Instead of mocking ignoramuses who know nothing of war heroism, it pandered to the troop-dissers. It would be nice if the editors had the cartoonist explain himself. Why, if he were trying to educate the ignorant, didn’t he put Popaditch’s name on the poster so the skateboard crowd could at least Google the man and learn about his war record?
But instead of calling on the cartoonist to be fired, perhaps he deserves thanks — thanks for inadvertently creating an opportunity for the rest of us. It’s a moment not merely to complain about a boneheaded media slap, but to spread the word about Nick Popaditch.
He’s exactly the kind of fighter we need in Washington to take back the Hill.
Get a copy of “Once a Marine,” Popaditch’s book, here.
Update: Here’s the newspapers apology.