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Calgary Herald, international syndication service, apologize for ‘racist’ comic

A cartoon published by the Calgary Herald has sparked controversy online. .
A cartoon published by the Calgary Herald has sparked controversy online. . Twitter

Postmedia, the national newspaper service that publishes the Calgary Herald, Edmonton Journal and other papers, issued an apology Tuesday for a comic that many readers and social media users are calling racist and inappropriate.

The comic, published in Friday’s paper and syndicated through Andrews McMeel Syndication, showed Tonto and the Lone Ranger sitting together at a bar. In the Close to Home image, Tonto appears to be lying on the bar counter.

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“‘Kemosabe! Tonto hear last call coming! Maybe eight or ten minutes away…'” the comic reads.

The Siksika Nation said the comic “reinforced negative stereotypes” and “emboldens non-Indigenous bigotry” at a time of “political tensions between two cultures.”

“The underlying message of the racist image implies all First Nations people are subservient, alcoholic and relegated to unsophisticated ‘feathers and leathers’ imagery.”

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“The Herald’s apology isn’t worth the paper it’s printed on. The right thing to do is educate the masses with objective, fair and balanced information from the point of view of the oppressed.

The comic sparked outrage from readers and social media users alike, with many using Twitter to express their disappointment with the Herald and its parent company.

“Wow! This is unacceptable and so racist!” wrote user David Kirk. “As [an] Indigenous person I am appalled and disgusted to see something so offensive and racist.”

“This is a cartoon that humans working at the @calgaryherald in the year 2020 decided was appropriate to print,” Twitter user Scott Kosman said.

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The newspaper issued a public apology on its Twitter account Tuesday, saying the cartoon was published as part of third-party syndication.

“On Friday an offensive cartoon appeared on the comics page of three Postmedia papers, including the Calgary Herald,” the paper wrote. “We sincerely apologize to anyone offended by the content. The cartoon, Close to Home, is syndicated by a third party. Postmedia will no longer publish this cartoon.”

The Calgary Herald also responded to dozens of tweets criticizing the comic, saying: “We sincerely apologize for the offensive content.”

Further requests for comment were referred to Postmedia, which didn’t return Global News’ request for comment on Tuesday.

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Close to Home is a comic strip illustrated by a New York-based cartoonist John McPherson. In a statement from Andrews McMillan Syndication, McPherson also apologized for any offence caused by the piece.

“I in no way meant to characterize anyone in the comic in a racist way,” McPherson said.

“My comics are meant to entertain, and I’m sorry that this one was hurtful to some readers. As the great-grandson of a Shawnee woman, I have always been interested in and concerned with the plight of native people, and I would never disparage them intentionally.”

The syndicator itself also apologized to “any reader offended by the Close to Home comic.”

“The fictional Native American character of Tonto was part of American entertainment media for more than 85 years, and though the portrayal of Tonto in this comic panel was not in any way an attempt to degrade Native Americans or members of any indigenous community, we regret having distributed a comic that could be interpreted as such.”

READ MORE: Canadians’ views on racism unchanged, despite ‘difficult’ conversations in 2019: poll

Andrews McMeel Syndication’s managing editor said the company would “strive to be more sensitive and uphold Andrews McMeel’s long tradition of providing quality content for our clients.”

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“Works in the comics medium, like all forms of art, are interpreted in varying ways by individual readers. That’s part of what makes this form of expression so popular,” Clint Hooker said, adding the company “takes to heart the reaction of our readers.”