SALT LAKE CITY — A controversial cartoon published this week by the Salt Lake Tribune’s Pat Bagley has raised the ire of law enforcement and several pro-law enforcement groups who are demanding an apology.
The editorial cartoon shows a doctor standing next to a man wearing a law enforcement jacket while apparently looking at the officer’s X-ray. The X-ray shows a skeletal rib cage on top connected to a hooded Ku Klux Klan member on the bottom. The caption states, “Well, there’s your problem...” On the wall next to the X-ray is a poster titled, “Intestinal Parasites.”
On social media, Bagley included comments with his cartoon, entitled “The Deep Hate.” He said, “White supremacists have made a point of infiltrating law enforcement. That’s a fact. That’s a problem.”
On Tuesday, the Utah Sheriff’s Association reacted strongly in an open letter.
“If you did not see Pat Bagley’s cartoon ... consider yourself lucky,” the letter, signed by Sevier County Sheriff Nate Curtis, the association’s president, and Executive Director Scott Burns.
According to the letter, the cartoon shows “law enforcement are also Ku Klux Klan members.”
“This is not the time for such a prejudicial piece of journalism,” the letter says. “This is not the time to fan the flames as law enforcement leaders and community leaders meet and discuss ways we can all do better when it comes to fair and equal treatment for all, with the goal of finding a peaceful path forward. And this is not the time for a cheap shot.”
The Utah Sheriff’s Association is demanding an apology from Bagley.
The cartoon also prompted Rep. Chris Stewart, R-Utah, to tweet, “This is extremely dangerous & inappropriate and only fans the flames of hatred & mistrust. I stand with the Utah Sheriffs Association. The @sltrib & @Patbagley should immediately retract & apologize.”
Bagley replied to Stewart’s tweet with, “Know what’s dangerous? Police w no accountability and a rep who misinterprets cartoon to rile people up. Cop in cartoon is in for a check up —he felt something was wrong. White supremacists make it a point to infiltrate law enforcement. That’s a fact. That’s a problem.”
Stewart continued to blast Bagley on the radio Thursday.
“Mr. Bagley can try and skew this any way he wants, but I think it’s disgusting. And I don’t use that word very often. But I think it’s disgusting and he’s either uninformed or he’s dishonest. Because there’s no way in the world you can interpret this other than one way, and that is you are equating law enforcement with absolute racism, and one of the worst symbols of racism in American history,” Stewart said on KSL Newsradio’s “Dave and Dujanovic” show.
He noted that isn’t to say racism in law enforcement doesn’t exist.
“There are racial issues throughout our society because there are some stupid people and there are some bad people, many of them are racist. And that’s just the truth,” Stewart added.
The congressman acknowledged there are individuals who have done “disgusting” things, such as in the George Floyd killing in Minnesota.
“But to presume that from these incidents that there is this surge of white supremacy within our police, again, I think that’s nonsense,” he said. “Show me the evidence that white supremacists have overtaken or have taken control of any police force anywhere.”
When pressed whether Bagley’s cartoon was meant to prompt discussion about the issue, Stewart said it crossed the line.
“There’s all sorts of ways you can provoke a conversation without this broad sweeping brush that is, as I said, either uninformed or dishonest.”
Tribune editorial page editor George Pyle said in a statement Thursday the cartoon does not imply that every police officer is a white supremacist, but that racism in law enforcement is an issue.
“The nature of a political cartoon is to raise important issues that should be faced, sometimes in a blunt way,” he said. “One of the most important issues facing our nation today is the fact that some elements of our nation’s law enforcement community, and those of other nations, have been infiltrated by white supremacists.”
Pyle further said that the officer in the cartoon “has rightly gone for a checkup because he felt that something was wrong. He is clearly not pleased with what he is seeing in the X-ray and, having seen it, may well resolve to take appropriate action. At least we can hope.”
On Facebook, several pro-law enforcement groups have planned a “back the blue” protest in front of the Tribune’s office on Thursday evening. The protest location was later changed to the Utah Media Group near 4800 South 5600 West, where the presses that print the Tribune are located.
“We DEMAND Salt Lake Tribune retract art work and issue an apology!” the groups stated.
“Let’s go show them police matter and they need to stick to reporting, not publishing their personal beliefs,” the group Concerned Citizens of Utah posted.
“This is a call to action for all patriots and citizens who back law enforcement. The salt lake tribune published a cartoon directly comparing police officers to the KKK this can’t go unchallenged!” posted the group Civilized Awakening.
Bagley has been with the Tribune since 1979.