Washington Post takes down Ted Cruz cartoon: Are politicians' kids off limits?

The Washington Post retracted a political cartoon published Tuesday of Ted Cruz and his daughters, saying it was in bad taste, but the artist stands by her sketch, saying the girls are 'fair game.'

Chris Keane/Reuters
U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) stands on stage with his wife Heidi and their daughters Catherine and Caroline, as he announces his candidacy for president during an event at Liberty College in Lynchburg, Virginia, March 23, 2015. Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz blasted the Washington Post for briefly posting an editorial cartoon on its website depicting his young daughters as monkeys and criticizing him for featuring them in the political area. Cruz, a U.S. senator representing Texas, quickly responded with a campaign fundraising appeal.

The Washington Post published, and then quickly retracted, a cartoon Tuesday depicting Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz as Santa and his two daughters as compliant monkeys. 

“Classy. @WashingtonPost makes fun of my girls. Stick with attacking me. Caroline & Catherine are out of your league,” Cruz tweeted Tuesday. 

With the caption “Ted Cruz uses his children as political props,” the cartoon, drawn by Ann Telnaes, the paper’s editorial cartoonist, references a political ad the Cruz campaign aired during the holiday episode of Saturday Night Live last week.  

In the 90-second ad, Cruz is reading classic Christmas stories on the couch with his wife, Heidi, and two daughters. But in the vein of SNL parody ads, each title is revised for a GOP chuckle. Some of Cruz’s “timeless Christmas classics” include, “How Obamacare Stole Christmas, “Rudolph the Underemployed Reindeer,” and “Frosty the Speaker of the House,” which takes a jab at former Speaker John Boehner.

“I know just what I’ll do, she said with a snicker. I’ll use my own server,” one of Cruz’s daughters reads aloud from the Hillary-Clinton-themed book “The Grinch Who Lost Her Emails.”

Ms. Telnaes has defended her sketch, saying her cartoon was appropriate because Cruz chose to bring his children into the political limelight first. 

"When a politician uses his children as political props, as Ted Cruz recently did in his Christmas parody video in which his eldest daughter read (with her father's dramatic flourish) a passage of an edited Christmas classic, then I figure they are fair game," Telnaes wrote in a statement accompanying the cartoon before it was taken down. 

She later took to Twitter to defend her work:

Fred Hiatt, the editoral page editor of the Washington Post, disapproved of Telnaes’ cartoon, but he admitted that he understood her reasoning.

“It’s generally been the policy of our editorial section to leave children out of it. I failed to look at this cartoon before it was published,” Hiatt wrote Tuesday in a statement that replaced the cartoon. “I understand why Ann thought an exception to the policy was warranted in this case, but I do not agree.” 

Caroline and Catherine Cruz are not the first political kids to wind up in the media spotlight.

As the Post itself noted last year, Americans have long been fascinated with the antics of political kids, especially presidential ones, from Barbara and Jenna Bush's transgressions against Texas liquor laws, to Alice Roosevelt's habit of carrying a snake, to the sheer destruction that a visit from Tad and Willie Lincoln would bring. 

“The lesson: Don’t say anything bad about the president’s kids,” the Post’s Jamie Fuller advised. “Also, the Internet is always waiting for the next thing to be outraged about; don’t make its job too easy.”

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