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Posted at 11:00 AM ET, 02/18/2011

'OBAMA NATION' artist decries MSNBC rant about 'racist obscenity' cartoon

By Michael Cavna


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Artist Batton Lash says he's fair game for criticism over his controversial "Obama Nation" cartoon. What Lash now calls out-of-bounds, though, is the extent to which MSNBC pundit Lawrence O'Donnell has turned the attack personal.

"I don't mind, or care, if Mr. O'Donnell criticizes me or my art," Lash tells Comic Riffs, "but I thought it was quite inappropriate -- and ungentlemanly! -- to drag my wife into the discussion, when she had absolutely nothing to do with the matter at hand."

On Tuesday's edition of "The Last Word," O'Donnell launched into an extended criticism of last weekend's cartoon by Lash and James Hudnall that appeared on Andrew Breitbart's site Their latest "Obama Nation" cartoon, in an attempt to skewer Michelle Obama's anti-obesity campaign, depicts the first lady scarfing down 10 hamburgers and telling the president to "shut up and pass the bacon!"

O'Donnell lambasted the cartoon, calling it "a racist obscenity" and upbraiding the "hateful vision" of Lash and his application of "animalistic," large-eared features to President Obama.

"What both of these men need," said O'Donnell, referring to Lash and Hudnall, "is an intervention ... by their loved ones." The MSNBC host then addressed Lash's wife, Jackie Estrada, by name, saying: "Like her husband, she works in the comic-book industry. She should turn to her husband ... and tell him to stop doing this. Tell him it's time to grow up as an artist."

After identifying what city the couple lives in, O'Donnell added: "Please, Jackie Estrada, get help for your husband."

Lash wasn't pleased with either the personal or the geographic references.

"Mentioning where we lived resulted in harassing phone calls and hate messages via e-mail," Lash tells Comic Riffs on Friday. "So much for civility!

"The upside to it all," continues Lash, who also draws the comic Supernatural Law, "was the outpouring of support I received from people in the comics industry -- including many who say they don't agree with my politics -- defending my right to express an opinion without fear of intimidation.

"They unanimously thought Mr. O'Donnell was way out of line with his comments."

obamanation.jpg (Cartoon: courtesy of Batton Lash and James Hudnall)

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. responded soon after the cartoon's publication, with Simon Maloy writing: "It's been a long time since I've expected anything approaching comity from the conservative media, but this is the sort of stuff most of us left at the grade school playground."

Beneath the headline "Satire Is a Scalpel. Not a Meat Cleaver," Technorati's Bill Schmalfeldt wrote in response: "The Conservatives don't understand satire. They don't have the capacity for it."

But Hudnall, creator of the comics ESPers and Harsh Realm, writes that "Batton and I are not so much conservatives as libertarians."

Hudnall also writes on his blog: "Frankly, I was surprised that Lawrence O'Donnell made such an epic fool of himself, that he would open himself and his company to such legal liability. Not only did he lie about what we were doing, he told people where we lived and to attack us! Is this a professional show? Is he a professional news commentator? Not hardly. He should be fired. What he did was tantamount to a call for violence."

Continues Hudnall, who says he received a flow of death threats: "To all the people who called this strip racist, I say the same thing. You are seeing what you want to see. If you see [the first lady] as fat in the cartoon, that's in your mind. So is the racism. It says a lot more about the critics, like O'Donnell, than it does about the cartoon when they see something that isn't there. There's a name for people who see race in everything. They're called racists."

By Michael Cavna  | February 18, 2011; 11:00 AM ET
Categories:  Interviews With Cartoonists, The Political Cartoon  | Tags:  Andrew Breitbart, Batton Lash, James Hudnall, Lawrence O'Donnell, Obama Nation  
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The guy shouldn't be lynched for being racist, he should be lynched for being unfunny. I realize that political cartoons are often lacking in the joke department, but damn that one sucked.

Posted by: tidalwv | February 18, 2011 12:41 PM | Report abuse

I found that Mexico produces the Worst form of Racist (anti-black) TV shows and its a shame they get exported to the USA. The terms "Racist Mexican TV Show" are a G search away, and what a shock to see a black man get bananas hurled at him while they actors scream 'monkey'!!!

Posted by: JuanGomez1 | February 18, 2011 2:57 PM | Report abuse

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