In late October a political ad for Janice Lorrah, who is running for the office of Auditor of Accounts in Delaware, appeared in the pages of the Cape Gazette. The primary art at the top of the full page advertisement was an old syndicated editorial cartoon by Ann Telnaes.
There was just one problem: No one had asked Telnaes.
“A @CapeGazette reader alerted me to this full-page ad for the Janice Lorrah campaign,” the Pulitzer-Prize winning contributor to The Washington Post posted on Twitter Thursday morning. “This is a cartoon of mine, used WITHOUT PERMISSION, altered, signature omitted.”
In addition to the missing signature, the drawing from Sept. 2005 — showing George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and others playing baseball — had been heavily photoshopped and cropped to remove multiple labels and elements, stripping the editorial of its original intent.
Under the bastardized cartoon, the ad for Janice Lorrah continued: “An Auditor is like an Umpire calling balls and strikes no matter which team is up to bat. You need someone who knows the rules, is fair and won’t cave to outside pressure.”
“Obviously doesn’t know the rules,” added Telnaes at the end of her tweet.
As the initial post began to go viral, the cartoonist clarified: “Besides it being theft, I never allow political campaigns to use my ed cartoons. #unethical.”
The snark from outraged followers began to pile up in the comments. “An auditor, no less,” replied one journalist, who then riffed on the tagline of the Lorrah ad: “Check the Books, Find the Crooks, Start With Me!”
Another cartoonist noted the irony of a candidate running as a Republican lifting a political cartoon critical of the second Bush administration. “It’s even weirder when you realize it’s Dubya & Cheney in the pic…”
The original ran on Sept. 15, 2005 and was commentary about the Supreme Court and early Republican efforts to overturn Roe v Wade. (Image here from the now mothballed syndication site The Cartoonist Group.)
Many of the replies called out the blatant violation of copyright. “Pretty much anyone born after the rise of the internet thinks everything is theirs,” posted one animator.
“When they omit your signature, they know what they’re doing is wrong,” added another commenter.
Lorrah, who states on her candidate page on Facebook that she has been an attorney for 20 years, did not respond to posts on her social media feeds and made no mention of the appropriated art during the day, but her campaign sent a screenshot of a statement to the AAEC late Thursday night.
“This morning it was brought to our attention that a cartoon used in an advertisement in the Cape Gazette last week was the work of artist Ann Telnaes. Once we learned of the mistake, our campaign immediately reached out to Ms. Telnaes to apologize and to rectify the situation. The use of Ms. Telnaes’ cartoon was not meant to be an endorsement. We apologize to Ms. Telnaes for the unintentional, unauthorized use of her work and for any confusion it may have caused.”
Telnaes confirmed the candidate’s office had contacted her, and as of press time was considering her options for how best to respond.
POST ELECTION UPDATE: Republican candidate Janice Lorrah was roundly defeated in her bid for Auditor.