The fallout from The Daily Texan’s publication of a controversial editorial cartoon is carrying on, this time in a different direction.
A UT student has launched an online petition to reinstate Stephanie Eisner, the Texan editorial cartoonist whose cartoon, she said, attacked what she saw as biased coverage of the Trayvon Martin shooting.
A 17-year old African-American, Martin was shot by George Zimmerman in a gated Florida community last month. Zimmerman claimed the shooting was in self-defense; Martin was unarmed. A wave of demonstrations, with protesters clad in hooded sweatshirts like Martin wore, have occurred across the county, including Austin.
In an apology, Eisner said her cartoon was meant to address media coverage of the case. But her satirical description of Martin as a “colored boy” lead to protests of the Texan. The paper initially stood by its decision to publish the cartoon, before making an apology.
23 year old UT graduate nursing student Samian Quazi has launched a drive on the petition website Change.org to reinstate Eisner. He says he was inspired in parts by comments left on the Texan’s website, when it announced Eisner no longer worked there.
“They’re overwhelmingly saying ‘you guys are a bunch of cowards for firing her and not taking responsibility for yourself as editors,’ or a lot of people said ‘Hey, she shouldn’t have been fired at all. People misinterpreted her cartoon,’” Quazi tells KUT News. “And that latter was actually my position.”
Quazi reiterates that belief on the petition website. “The decision is an insult to journalistic independence, our national values of free speech and a free press, and the right to dissent from popular or prevailing viewpoints,” he writes. “Regardless of one's views of the cartoon itself, we find it alarming that Ms. Eisner would be shunned and silenced for expressing her views.”
“It’s not practice to go ahead and sack one of your cartoonists if they do mess up. And in this case I don’t think she was deliberately trying to be offensive at all,” he says.
As of this writing, the petition, which has been up for approximately a week, has garnered under 200 signatures out of a goal of 5,000.
KUT News is awaiting comment from editors at The Daily Texan; we’ll update this space with any response we receive.