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Created by student D.C. Parsons, the comic (above) depicts a father explaining to his young son, “If you ever tell me you’re gay … I will shoot you with my shotgun, roll you up in a carpet and throw you off a bridge.” The boy replies, “Well, I guess that’s what you call a ‘Fruit Roll Up,'” and the two share a hearty laugh.
The strip drew immediate condemnation both on campus and off, with a petition on Change.org demanding the firing of the newspaper’s editor-in-chief, cartoonist and copy editor attracting more than 4,600 signatures.
On Wednesday, Editor-in-Chief Kristina Bui apologized for publishing the comic, writing, “On Tuesday, the Daily Wildcat staff made a serious error in judgment in printing a cartoon that some readers felt was homophobic and inappropriate. We heard from several readers who expressed their disappointment and hurt over the comic strip. […] Printing the comic strip was a failure to weigh the perspectives and experiences of others. We regret our mistake, and that we cannot take back the damage it has caused. We’re sorry.”
Parsons also offered an apology, saying that while “the comic was not intended to offend,” “I have always used humor as a coping mechanism, much like society does when addressing social taboos. I do not condone these things; I simply don’t ignore them. I do sincerely apologize and sympathize with anyone who may be offended by my comics (I am often similarly offended by Ralph and Chuck), but keep in mind it is only a joke, and what’s worse than a joke is a society that selectively ignores its problems.”
Bui told KVOA TV that although it’s her responsibility to approve the newspaper’s pages each night, “I made the mistake of automatically finalizing this one without considering the perceptions and the perspectives of others.” Readers’ representative Bethany Barnes wrote that in the past cartoons have been reviewed only by the Daily Wildcat’s editor-in-chief, but a new policy is being implemented to change that; according to The Arizona Republic, three editors now will be involved in the cartoon-approval process.
“Cartoons are opinions and editorial content,” Barnes wrote. “They should be treated with the same care because they are powerful. Good comics do more than cause a chuckle; they can discuss important issues in a meaningful way. Bad comics — and this was a doozy of one — not only hurt others but can cause hate to be perpetuated.”