Let’s Talk About a Florida Newspaper’s ‘Sexist’ Cartoon of Ron DeSantis’ Press Secretary

AP Photo/Marta Lavandier

A Florida newspaper cartoonist is in hot water with conservatives this week, especially female conservatives, after posting a cartoon he drew of Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’ press secretary to his Twitter feed that some viewed as “sexist.”

Andy Marlette, who is the editorial cartoonist for the Pensacola News Journal, drew the cartoon in the style of a Glamour magazine or Vogue magazine cover. His magazine’s name was “Florida COVID Cover-up Girl” and included an exaggerated drawing of Christina Pushaw gazing adordingly at an image of Gov. DeSantis while wearing a short skirt, and with “articles” that included one on “3 Cosmetic Enhancements to Conceal Inner Ugliness.” As per the norm with any cartoonist, it included his name and the news outlet he draws for.

Here’s what it looks like:

Before I get into my .02 on the matter, here are a couple of reactions that are representative of many of the responses I saw:

I responded similarly, saying that “Sexism in the media is okay as long as they pick the right target (a Republican woman), I guess. Disgusting.” I put quotation marks around “sexist” in the headline because some view it that way while others don’t.

But let’s be honest here: If Pushaw was a man, there would have been nothing about cosmetic enhancements mentioned and obviously, the short skirt would have been left out of the cartoon, too.

That said, Marlette’s cartoon – while over the top, in my opinion – inspired me to start a discussion this morning among friends including RedState cartoonist Jim Thompson, who does great work and whose “CODE RED” cartoons you can view here.

First things first, let’s state for the record that Pushaw is fair game for criticism, just like White House press secretary Jen Psaki and all others in the same profession are. Fielding criticism of not just the person they work for but of themselves, too, comes with the job. That’s true regardless of the sex of the press secretary (just ask Sean Spicer).

That said, I get that cartoonists are supposed to be provocative, which gets people talking and thinking about their subject matter. I also understand that part of being provocative means not being afraid of offending a group of people to get your point across.

It’s very similar to how opinion writers operate. They want to deliver a message and sometimes the best way they feel like they can do it is to use certain language or by framing a story in a certain shocking way in order to stimulate people into having conversations and debates on the topic at hand.

It’s an unwritten part of the job description for anyone who either talks about, writes about, or draws cartoons about politics for a living that you need to be willing to turn over some tables and upset folks. That includes the 33% of your audience who is going to hate whatever you write/say/draw, guaranteed because that 33% is roughly the percentage of your political opposition. In fact, I will offend some people who read this, and that’s okay.

But a rule of thumb I try to keep in mind as an opinion writer myself is to not write anything so over the top that it ends up being an unnecessary distraction from the message I’m trying to send. For example, there are a lot of things about certain Democrats I don’t like that don’t necessarily have to do with their politics. It’s mostly related to personal characteristics. Me pointing it out in pieces I write about them wouldn’t add to the message and, in fact, would probably turn people off from it because it would be entirely irrelevant to the point.

This is why I viewed Marlette’s cartoon as sexist (not an accusation I use often), not to mention hypocritical (would he consider doing a cartoon like this about Psaki after her Vogue interview? Of course not.). He could have gotten his message (which was still deeply flawed, especially once you read the background of the Florida media’s ridiculous pearl-clutching over Pushaw just trying to do her job) across without the bit about “cosmetic enhancements” and the short skirt.

Instead, he comes off looking like a sexist jerk and, quite frankly, a [word that rhymes with “trick” that I can’t use here]. But then again, maybe that was the point? After all, Marlette’s got a history of crossing over lines that he shouldn’t when it comes to powerful Republican women and other minority public figures:

Couldn’t he have gotten his provocative point across in that one without resorting to using racist tropes? I rest my case.

Flashback –>> #WarOnWomen: Minneapolis Star Tribune in Hot Water After Publishing Sexist Cartoon of Ivanka Trump