Locals React To Newspaper’s Cartoon Depicting Firefighters

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HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) - Reaction continues to pour in about a political cartoon printed in the Pensacola News Journal on Saturday, June 23. 

The cartoon shows two Alabama firefighters spraying water on a black couple. The caption reads "Don't worry, since they laid off all the journalists in Alabama we can get away with this kind of stuff again!"

Many have said the cartoon was offensive, including firefighters.

International Association of Fire Fighters General President Harold Schaitberger demanded the paper issue an apology.

“We rely on the sound, unbiased work of real reporters and editors to bring us the news, but on June 16, Andy Marlette and the Pensacola News Journal violated that standard by printing a senseless, confusing and bigoted illustration that should never have reached print. Mr. Marlette and the News Journal owe fire fighters and readers an unequivocal apology," Schaitberger wrote.

WHNT News 19 talked with some people in Huntsville about the controversy.  Some are uging those who take offense to the cartoon to step back and view it within the proper context.

Huntsville Fire Chief Mike Sublett did not want to speak on camera.  He said, however, he and his colleagues are outraged, calling the cartoon a slap in the face to fire professionals and minorities everywhere.

WHNT News 19 viewers even scolded us for posting it to our station's Facebook page to ask for comments.

"To be honest with you, I think it is pretty racial and to be honest with you I don't think it should be on the Facebook page," said John Kennedy, a Huntsville father.

The viewpoints varied, though. 

"I definitely respect the person who made this and I feel like things like this should be made often," said Joshua Udeh, a senior sociology student at Alabama A&M University.

Udeh said he views editorial commentary as one of the last vestages of free speech left these days.  But does the image cross the line?

"People create lines. And when a line is created, then yes, boundary can be passed, but at the same time media and things like this, this has been happening for years," Udeh said.

"But things like this -- important, this is real this is actual history, so I respect the guy who made this, this is his point of view and this is how a lot of people think but because of the facade of the American society we try to cover things like this up, but this is a reality."

That opinion wasn't lost on Kennedy.

"If you look at it initially you do see a lot of racism, but if you look more deeply into it you can actually see the purpose behind it," said Kennedy.