Rockville Council Member Accuses Newspaper Of Stealing Political Cartoons

The Montgomery County Sentinel removed all political cartoons from its website after accusation


Published:

A Rockville City Council member Thursday accused The Montgomery County Sentinel’s cartoonist of stealing cartoons from other artists.

Tom Moore, the council member and a frequent target of criticism in the cartoons, wrote a blog post showing the drawings that he said were clearly stolen from others.

The versions that appeared in the Sentinel include minor changes and new text to better fit political issues in Rockville and Montgomery County.

The Montgomery County Sentinel cartoons are composed by “William Charles,” a pseudonym. The cartoons were removed from the newspaper’s website Thursday.

Brian Karem, the newspaper’s executive editor, said the cartoonist is an unpaid contributor. A copy editor is reviewing every illustration and only the appropriate ones will be reposted on the paper’s website.

“We investigate every claim, as any magazine or newspaper does, of plagiarism and take appropriate steps to ensure that it doesn’t happen again,” Karem said.

One cartoon, published Jan. 9, 2014, depicts a stampede of new students overflowing into a school classroom as commentary on Moore’s effort to loosen the city’s development moratorium standard because of school overcrowding.

A teacher says: “Class, due to ‘Team Rockville’ Councilmembers’ votes to kill the City’s APFO, we will be welcoming some new students today…”

The artwork is identical to a cartoon drawn by Jeff Parker in 2004 for a local newspaper in Florida and available for sale online. The text in Parker’s cartoon reads, “Class, because of our county’s enormous growth, we’ll be welcoming some new students today…”

  

The top political cartoon was published in the Jan. 9, 2014 edition of The Montgomery Sentinel. The bottom cartoon was published by Florida Today in 2004. Credit: Montgomery Sentinel, CagleCartoons.com

Another cartoon from Charles that appeared in the Sentinel in March 2014 shows a developer at a desk with a roulette-style wheel. The wheel is divided into sections labeled with the names of Democratic county executive candidates Ike Leggett, Doug Duncan and Phil Andrews.

Leggett’s and Duncan’s names occupy the largest sections of the wheel.

The text reads: “Developers make their choice on who they will ‘support’ for Montgomery County Executive…”

A secretary in the cartoon is holding a suitcase full of money.

The original cartoon, drawn by Walt Handelsman and published in multiple publications in 2013, depicts the man at the desk as a college president, not a developer.

His secretary is carrying a stack of papers, not a suitcase of cash. In the Sentinel cartoon, Charles appears to have added a construction crane to the background.

Moore said he contacted Handelsman about the incident and the two-time Pulitzer Prize winner said he’s never had something like it happen before.

The top cartoon appeared in March 2014 in The Montgomery County Sentinel. The bottom cartoon, drawn by Puliter Prize winner Walt Handelsman, was published in 2013. Credit: Tom Moore

Moore wrote that he found the cartoons and four others like it through a Google reverse image search. In his blog post, Moore featured another cartoon by Charles published last July that he said clearly stole a character from New Yorker cartoonist Leo Cullum.

“I don’t mind being razzed in political cartoons, even razzed hard—as a former journalist and political history buff, I wear it as a badge of honor,” Moore wrote. “But even those fully protected by the First Amendment have to play by the rules. I am far less offended as the target of these cartoons than I am as a guy who spent a lot of time in his 20s making sure Congressional Quarterly’s publications had full rights to every scrap we ever published.”

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