When Pulitzer Prize-winning cartoonist Michael Ramirez put pen to paper seeking to defend President Bush from attacks on his Iraq policy, he never expected to be targeted for federal interrogation.
But he was, in the latest example of post-9/11 paranoia prompting outrageous overreaching by law enforcement agencies.
Ramirez' cartoon in the Los Angeles Times on Sunday was a satirical takeoff on the chilling 1968 photo of a South Vietnamese general executing a Viet Cong officer at point-blank range — except Ramirez' man with the gun was labeled "Politics," and he was aiming at a caricature of Bush against a backdrop labeled "Iraq."
Monday, a Secret Service agent showed up at the Times asking to talk to Ramirez because the pro-Bush cartoon "might be construed as a threat against the president," according to the Times .
A Secret Service agent tried to visit Michael Ramirez July 21 -- the day after the Los Angeles Times editorial cartoonist did a drawing showing a gun being aimed at President Bush.
"I thought it was a little bit of an overreaction," Ramirez told E&P Online.
Ironically, the conservative creator was trying to be supportive of Bush. "It makes you wonder about our so-called 'intelligence' services," Ramirez said with a laugh. "You have to be a little bit intelligent to 'get' the cartoon. The majority of readers 'got' it."
The cartoon, a takeoff on the famous photo of a Viet Cong member being shot at point-blank range, showed a man labeled "politics" aiming the weapon at a caricatured version of Bush.
"It was obviously not meant to encourage violence," said the Pulitzer Prize-winning Ramirez, explaining he was showing that, "metaphorically, there are people currently engaged in the political assassination of our president."
Ramirez said the Secret Service agent, Peter Damos, first called him to ask if he could visit. The cartoonist jokingly agreed, because "I just assumed it was a hoax." When Damos showed up at the Times , he was turned away after speaking with an attorney for the paper.Posted by tstubbs at July 24, 2003 09:05 PM