Political cartoonist gets death threats

Ted Rall's cartoon criticized the 'lionizing' of ex-football player Pat Tillman.
NEW YORK (AP) -- Cartoonist Ted Rall says he has received numerous death threats over a cartoon he did this week that satirized the media's response to the death of Pat Tillman, the former pro-football player killed in Afghanistan.
Rall said in an interview Wednesday that he has received about 6,000 e-mails in response to the cartoon, which was distributed Monday. MSNBC.com pulled the cartoon from its Web site, saying it "did not meet MSNBC.com standards of fairness and taste."
The cartoon said that Tillman "falsely believed" that the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were linked to the Sept. 11 attacks, and that Tillman 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."
Rall said the responses to the cartoon started out "extremely negative," with critical responses outweighing positive ones by nearly 100-to-1. But he said the tide has since turned, and now about 80 percent of the reaction has been supportive, which he called "the natural ebb and flow of this kind of thing."
Some 300 of the messages threatened Rall with "death or bodily harm," he said, and he also said he had received several death threats by phone.
E-mails to syndicate
Universal Press Syndicate, which distributes Rall's cartoons to about 70 newspapers, has received several e-mails from readers who objected to the content of the comic, spokeswoman Kathie Kerr said.
But Kerr also added that the syndicate often receives feedback about the political columnists and cartoonists it carries, which also include Ann Coulter, a conservative commentator, as well as the comic strips "Doonesbury" and "The Boondocks."
Bill O'Reilly had Rall on his program on the Fox News Channel on Tuesday, and the two traded barbs over the cartoon. O'Reilly closed the show by saying that Rall "should be ashamed of what you did to Tillman."
Rall addressed the controversy on his Web site, saying his cartoon was a "reaction to the extraordinary lionizing of Mr. Tillman as a national hero."
He also criticized the media's "decision to genuflect to a cult of death," which he said was "terrifyingly similar to the cult of Palestinian suicide bombers in the Middle East and the glorious coverage given by the Japanese during World War II to fallen kamikaze fighters."
Controversy part of the job
Rall told the AP that a previous comic of his also caused a controversy two years ago with its depiction of widows from the Sept. 11 attacks. He also said that his "average of creating outrage is about one in 400."
"It's not like Bil Keane who does 'Family Circus,'" Rall said. "People who buy political cartoons know what they're getting."
Other cartoons have also caused controversy with war-related themes in recent weeks. "Doonesbury" and "Get Fuzzy" both depicted characters who lost a leg in the war.
Tillman's death has also been the subject of controversy elsewhere. The University of Massachusetts in Amherst has been roiled by a student's newspaper column that said Tillman was not a hero but rather a "G.I. Joe guy who got what was coming to him." Graduate student Rene Gonzalez also criticized America's military response to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
UMass president Jack Wilson issued a statement saying the comments in The Daily Collegian on Wednesday were "a disgusting, arrogant and intellectually immature attack on a human being who died in service to his country."
Copyright 2004 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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