The Salt Lake Tribune sparked outrage after it ran an editorial cartoon comparing Republican Utah Rep. Burgess Owens to a member of the Klu Klux Klan (KKK).
The cartoon shows Owens pointing toward the southern border with the caption, “They are coming to your neighborhoods!” On the right side of the cartoon, a member of the KKK holds a torch and points toward Owens, saying, “They are coming to your neighborhoods!”
We have heard of “mansplaining” now we have “whitesplaining” from a white man comparing a black man, who grew up under Jim Crow laws, to the KKK.
— Burgess Owens (@BurgessOwens) April 15, 2021
Owens called the paper “tone deaf” and “racist” in a statement to the Daily Caller.
“I was raised int he 1960’s Deep South during a time when the KKK terrorized my neighborhood and the color of my skin literally dictated where I went to school. It was a time when racism was defined by arrogance and demeaning the character of any person of color,” Owens told the Caller.
“They can try to hide behind a newspaper and fake ‘wokeness,’ but this is it,” he continued. “Don’t let the racist and tone deaf Salt Lake Tribune cast a bad light on our great state of inclusion. It does not represent the people of Utah or my constituents in District 4.”
The Utah Delegation issued a joint statement condemning the graphic as “repugnant.”
“The Salt Lake Tribune recently published a repugnant ‘cartoon’ comparing Congressman Burgess Owens, our esteemed colleague and only black member of the Utah delegation, to a member of the Klu Klux Klan,” the statement read.
— Mike Lee (@SenMikeLee) April 15, 2021
“This racially charged, reverse political statement is beyond the pale. We ask that The Salt Lake Tribune immediately take down this horrific image, issue a formal apology, and hold themselves to a higher standard.”
Republican Colorado Rep. Ken Buck called the cartoon “absolutely disgusting” while Florida Republican Rep. Bryon Donalds defended Owens on Twitter.
Comparing a black man, who grew up under Jim Crow laws, to the KKK is absolutely disgusting, @sltrib.
— Congressman Ken Buck (@RepKenBuck) April 15, 2021
The one thing liberals hate more than a conservative is a Black Conservative, but I’m here to tell you, we’re not going anywhere. https://t.co/dRvq9bLgfF
— Byron Donalds (@ByronDonalds) April 15, 2021
Republican Texas Sen. Ted Cruz called the image “disgusting” in a tweet.
Pro tip: if you’re a newspaper that doesn’t want to look like wild-eyed partisan racists…maybe don’t run a cartoon portraying a Black Member of Congress as a Klansman.#disgusting https://t.co/2sZmXKYw7g
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) April 16, 2021
Pat Bagley, the cartoonist, took to Twitter to defend his cartoon, saying Owens’ rhetoric stirs up “irrational fear and animosity.”
I can’t speak to the Black experience (obviously). But I can speak to the effect the words @RepBurgessOwens used have on White people. From time immemorial they have been used to stir up irrational fear and animosity https://t.co/00WQUqxFW3
— Pat Bagley (@Patbagley) April 15, 2021
George Pyle, The Salt Lake Tribune’s Editorial page editor, also tried to defend the cartoon and said that Owens does not deserve an apology.(RELATED: Rep. Burgess Owens Lived Through Jim Crow, Says It’s ‘Demeaning’ To Compare Voter ID With Actual Racism)
— George Pyle (@DebateState) April 15, 2021
Following the backlash, The Salt Lake Tribune’s editorial page released a defense statement explaining their cartoon.
The cartoon is based on a statement from Owens in which he said the wave of illegal immigrants wasn’t just affecting the border states, The Salt Lake Tribune said.
“They are coming to your neighborhoods, not knowing the language, not knowing the culture, and there is a cartel influence along the way,” Owens said, according to KSL. “So be aware, don’t think this is a distance from you now, this is coming your way and it is done on purpose by a party who could care less about we, the people.”
As the Biden administration struggles with a border surge, the administration has sent illegal immigrants to other states where they can quarantine amid the pandemic, such as North Carolina, Maryland and New Jersey, according to NBC News.
Other politicians have begun to make it clear they will not bear the brunt of the surge in migrants, such as Republican South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster. The governor recently issued an executive order preventing the state from taking in undocumented migrant children and placing them in the state’s foster care and group home system.
But The Salt Lake Tribune said Owens’ words were ” a string of lies … to treat anyone who looks new to this country with suspicion.”
“Utahns don’t think of immigrants as a distant threat,” the statement continued. “When we hear foreign languages on a train or plane, we don’t wonder if they’re drug dealers. We’re smarter and kinder than that. [Owens’] words are destructive and your constituents know it.”
Republican North Carolina Lt. Gov. Mark Robinson slammed a similar cartoon in February that depicted Republicans on the State Board of Education as members of the KKK. Robinson, the state’s first African American Lt. Governor, criticized WRAL.com for the cartoon that depicted Republicans as members of the KKK.
“On the second day of Black History Month, the first Black lieutenant governor of North Carolina has been portrayed as [racist],” Robinson said during a press conference, according to The Hill. “That you would portray a Black man, just because he’s in the GOP, as a Klansman … the hypocrisy is mind-numbing, folks.”