The cartoonist who came under fire on social media for depicting Education Secretary Betsy DeVos as the girl in an iconic civil rights painting told TPM on Wednesday that he did it to shed on light on what he feels is a toxic political environment.
Glenn McCoy faced backlash Tuesday for drawing DeVos in the place of Ruby Bridges, the African-American girl in the Norman Rockwell painting “The Problem We All Live With,” which was a statement about the violence surrounding the desegregation of public schools. McCoy said in a statement emailed to TPM that he was surprised by the negative reaction to the cartoon.
“My cartoon was about how, in this day and age, decades beyond the civil rights protests, it’s sad that people are still being denied the right to speak freely or do their jobs or enter public buildings because others disagree with who they are or how they think,” he said in the statement. “I’m surprised that some readers see ‘hate’ in this cartoon when I thought I was speaking out against hate.”
Many Twitter users were offended by the cartoon, which they viewed as putting forward a false equivalency between DeVos, who faced questions about her qualifications for a Cabinet position, and a child facing violence for desegregating a school.
McCoy went on to say that he truly saw similarities between those two situations, and that he feels protestors were hateful toward DeVos when they blocked her from entering a Washington, D.C. public school last week.
“The drawing depicts a woman passively walking while being protected from angry protesters,” he said in the statement. “Isn’t that what went down the other day when Devos visited a school to do her job? You may disagree with her on issues but I didn’t see any hate coming from her. I did, however see hate going in the other direction which is what made me think of the Rockwell image.”
McCoy apologized if “anyone was offended” by his visual metaphor, but said he wanted to open up a dialogue in what he characterized as a toxic political climate.
“The level of toxicity in today’s political climate has reached ridiculous levels,” his statement concluded. “I regret if anyone was offended by my choice of metaphors but my intention was to focus on the protesters being hateful and to open up a dialogue on this point.”