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See above a screenshot of the Concord Monitor's Mike Marland's cartoon from editor Felice Belman's column on the controversy. (Credit: Concord Monitor/Mike Marland, screenshot)

A New Hampshire politician announced that he won’t let the Concord Monitor interview him after the newspaper ran a May 23 cartoon of another politician “sporting a Hitler mustache,” according to a report by the Concord Monitor’s editor, Felice Belman.

The Concord Monitor is a daily New Hampshire newspaper with circulation of about 20,000 copies, according to Mondo Times.

Accordingto Belman, the cartoon of House speakerBill O’Brien was “a direct comment” on Republican Rep. Steve Vaillancourt’s “salute: ‘Sieg Heil” after O’Brien threatened to have Vaillancourt  “removed from the hall,” Belman explained that the newspaper has published opinions favoring both O’Brien and Vaillancourt and the newspaper decided that the “harsh” cartoon was the cartoonist’s “view”.  Further, Belman noted the cartoonist, Mike Marland, “didn’t come up with the Hitler analogy out of the blue; he was making a point about the news.”
The GOP chairman and House Majority Leader D.J. Bettencourt both called for apologies, according to Belman.  The Union Leader noted that a total of 40 “GOP House members demanded an apology.”  According to an e-mail from Belman to iMediaEthics, 39 politicians signed a letter from Bettencourt calling for the apology, and the Monitor published the letter.  Belman noted that “there are 400 state representatives in New Hampshire, and the Republicans have a nearly 3-1 majority in the House.”

Bettencourt wrote in an e-mail to politicians: “I will not be giving any statements or responding to any interview requests by the Concord Monitor until an apology is issued. You might consider a similar policy but obviously I leave that to your judgment,” according to Belman, who called that decision “preposterous”  The Monitor’s editor Belman told iMediaEthics that the newspaper hasn’t “heard from Speaker O’Brien directly,” but that Bettencourt called both Belman and the newspaper’s publisher Winn Miller about the cartoon.  Belman noted: “We tried to call Bettencourt back that morning and left him a voicemail message but never did hear back from him. (Later that week, Bettencourt ended up resigning from his position in the Legislature for unrelated reasons.)”

Further, Belman noted that despite Bettencourt’s recommendation to essentially boycott the newspaper, “our reporters haven’t reported any trouble interviewing other legislators.”

But, the saga over the Monitor’s cartoons doesn’t end there. A follow-up column by Belman reported that “people have had plenty to say about” a second Marland cartoon picturing “O’Brien with a Groucho Marx mustache.” Belman linked to a variety of sites that covered the newspaper’s cartoons including Concord Patch, TV news WMUR, Huffington Post, and the Union Leader.

In a third post about the cartoons, published May 25, Belman noted Marland was still drawing cartoons of O’Brien with various famous mustaches, and including a sampling of readers’ suggestions for future mustaches.  We asked Belman how many cartoons were drawn in total.  She wrote: “Mike Marland drew 6 mustache cartoons in all: Hitler, Groucho Marx, Rhett Butler, Salvadore Dali, Teddy Roosevelt and Yosemite Sam. We published them on 6 consecutive days.”

Belman added:

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“n general, I’ve been heartened by the evidence that a political cartoon published in a newspaper can still stir up such debate and controversy. Newspaper cartooning is an old profession and an endangered one. In a challenging economic time for our industry, Concord Monitor readers are blessed to have a talented local cartoonist commenting on local and state affairs several times a week. Mike Marland has been with the Monitor since the 1980s, and his cartoons are a critical part of the newspaper’s personality. For many readers, the morning Marland cartoon is the first thing they turn to when their newspaper arrives.

For every politician and reader who denounced Marland’s Hitler cartoon, I heard for many others who supported it — as well as his right to draw it and the newspaper’s right to publish it.”

We wrote to Vaillancourt, whose “Seig Heil” comment prompted the initial cartoon, asking for comment about this incident.  Vaillancourt directed iMediaEthics to his blog,NHInsider.com,  Vaillancourt blogged a couple of times about the cartoons. In one post on May 24, he noted that he “gave no Nazi salute” and “neither mentioned the word Nazi or Hitler.”

We have written to O’Brien for comment and will update with any response.

UPDATE: 6/2/2012 1:11 PM EST: O’Brien responded to our e-mail inquiry saying that he doesn’t have any comment about the cartoons.  He added:  “I stopped giving individual interviews to the Concord Monitor earlier on when holding my current office.  It became almost immediately apparent that its mission was to cling to Democrat talking points, add its own unique brand of crudeness and venality, and then try to pass the product off as serious journalism.  A desire to be attentive to facts has never been an obstacle to the Concord Monitor’s reporting and editorializing (actually, one mergers into the other for the Concord Monitor).

We are writing to the Monitor to ask if it has any response to his comment and will update with any response.

UPDATE: 6/2/2012 6:30 PM EST: The Monitor’s editor Felice Belman said the newspaper has no comment .

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NH Newspaper’s Cartoon with Hitler, Groucho Marx Mustaches on Politician Prompt Apology Calls, Newspaper Defends

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