CHAMPAIGN COUNTY, Ill. (WCIA) — Democrats running for Champaign County Board will not attend a forum this weekend because of a comic strip.
The politically-charged comic ran in The News-Gazette this week. After it was published, a press release from Democratic candidates stated all candidates would boycott the forum. It was changed on Facebook to state each candidate must make his or her own decision.
Despite the boycott, the forum will still take place. The News-Gazette, League of Women Voters and NAACP are hosting it.
Group leaders say they’ll continue with their policy. If there’s only one candidate attending, that candidate can only speak for five minutes and there won’t be any questions.
The comic shows two teens sitting in a car on Lover’s Lane. The boy expressed concerns thinking, “This could come back to haunt me in 30-years when I’m up for a big position.” The girl thinks, “What’s he waiting for? Doesn’t he like me?”
“This made light of sexual assault and, as we speak, they are discussing this about Brett Kavanaugh’s nomination. This was the day Bill Cosby went to jail.”
Some Democrats running for county board withdrew from the upcoming forum as an act of protest against the cartoon and the newspaper.
“I have no malice at all towards NAACP or the League of Women Voters.”
Tanesha King, another Democrat running says, “This cartoon is a callous and dated attempt to make a joke of the serious issue of sexual harassment and assault. I believe that we need to take a stand about things like this. It’s not funny. It was never funny. It’s certainly not funny now.”
The artist is a nationally-published editorial cartoonist. The News-Gazette was one of many newspapers to pick it up.
John Reed from the paper wrote, “We learned something this week and it sparked a fair bit of dialogue inside our little local media company. That’s a good thing since it will ultimately make us better.”
The paper also ran letters to the editor disagreeing with the cartoon, but leaders at the paper say the boycott will not stop the forum.
The League of Women Voters says it respects candidates’ choices, but “This will mean that the public will be substantially less educated about the policies and experiences of the candidates for those positions.”
The Democratic candidates not participating say they’ll try to have a different forum in the future.
“We’ll find moderators that are neutral and we’ll invite the media, including The News-Gazette, but we will not make them a co-sponsor of this event at all.”
The artist said he intended his cartoon to be “a commentary on modern life and the chilling effects surrounding the #MeToo movement and, more specifically, the Kavanaugh hearings.” He apologized for misinterpretations.
The Republican opponent for District 7, Ginny Bartholow-Holder, says she personally found it troubling and feels the comic should have been filtered in light of women’s rights and sexual assault, but defends the freedom of the press. She plans on attending the forum.