Political cartoonist Steve Benson says his grandfather, LDS Church President Ezra Taft Benson, is aware of the firestorm of criticism surrounding his grandson's lampooning of former Arizona Gov. Evan Mecham.
But President Benson seems to be taking it in stride, says the younger Benson, eldest grandson of the leader of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and editorial cartoonist for The Arizona Republic."Grandpa knows whereof he speaks because he was a political appointee," he said. "In the heat of political battle, he was the subject of controversy for statements he made and stands he took."
Benson's April 7 cartoon depicting Mecham holding a book titled, "The Book of Moron, By Ev Mecham," has outraged many Mecham supporters, some Mormons and leaders of other faiths.
The cartoon referred to Mecham's announcement that he would try to regain the office from which he was ousted following an impeachment trial last year.
The ensuing flap, however, also prompted Benson's release from his duties as a member of the LDS Tempe West Stake High Council, a decision Benson defends.
"It's difficult to be in a high profile in church and in my (newspaper) position," he said. "I'm at total peace with what's happened."
Benson says he maintains a "very close" relationship with his grandfather, now 90, who served on Dwight Eisenhower's agriculture secretary for eight years.
During his tenure, President Benson urged farmers toward self-sufficiency and better farm management through reduction of federal supports. That stance earned him the ire of farm-state congressmen, and on one occasion made him the target of eggs thrown by South Dakota farmers.
Benson said his grandfather once called for an explanation following his cartoon poking fun at the LDS Church's public relations department during the 1985 Mark Hofmann bombing murders and document forgery case.
"I muttered a silent prayer and explained that it was my job," Benson said. "He said, `Steve, I understand, and I'm still your friend.' He understands the role that humor plays in these very delicate and difficult situations. I've always held that tragedy plus time equals comedy."