On January 7, the Washington Post ran an article by Ishaan Tharoor criticizing me for drawing attention to the irresponsibility of the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo. He took me to task for not taking a more expansive view of free speech. In his online post, two cartoons from the French weekly were reprinted: one was anti-Muslim and the other was anti-Catholic. They were hardly the worst that Charlie Hebdo has penned, but they offered a glimmer of what the publication offers.
The next day Tharoor’s article ran again, but this time there were no cartoons. There was an explanatory statement at the end of his article. “Editors note: An earlier version of this article included images offensive to various religious groups that did not meet the Post’s standards, and should not have been published. They have been removed.”
Now how about them apples? If this isn’t bad enough, consider that as recently as last month the art critic at the newspaper, Philip Kennicott, bemoaned the fact that an exhibition of Catholic art at the National Museum of Women in the Arts, “Picturing Mary,” did not include his favorite—the portrait by Chris Ofili of Our Blessed Mother that was adorned with pictures of anuses and vaginas, as well as elephant dung. Kennicott called it “perhaps the most famous image of Mary painted in the last quarter century.” That it wasn’t included made this guy angry.
So this is what passes as ethics at the Washington Post: it is not only okay to offend Catholics, it is a blow to freedom of speech not to include scatological portraits of the Virgin Mary in Catholic exhibitions. As for anti-Muslim depictions, that’s a different story—they don’t meet the newspaper’s standards. Which is why in 2010 it decided not to run an inoffensive cartoon by Wiley Miller simply because the “Non Sequitur” cartoon printed the line “Where’s Muhammad?” at the bottom!!!
Contact Patrick Pexton, the paper’s ombudsman: firstname.lastname@example.org