BYU Paper Won't Run Benson Cartoons
Salt Lake Tribune
The student newspaper at Brigham Young University will stop publishing editorial cartoons from Pulitzer Prize-winner and BYU graduate Steve Benson. Faculty advisor John Gholdston said Benson's work is not suited for readers of the Daily Universe and has become "increasingly harsh" lately.
Gholdston said a management team of administrators at the Provo school decided last summer to stop using Benson's work, but did not make a move until they received a letter to the editor last week.
Student Joseph Dallin took issue with the Mormon Church-owned school newspaper paying for Benson's work since the cartoonist has publicly denounced the church. In July 1993, Benson accused the church hierarchy of lying about the health of his grandfather, church President Ezra Taft Benson, who died 10 months later at age 94. He said church leaders were hiding the fact that his grandfather could barely speak, wasn't cogent and couldn't recognize some family members.
Benson asked that his name be removed from membership records of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and the church complied.
Dallin's letter to the editor said using the cartoon was a show of sympathy and support for an apostate.
"One of the questions asked in a temple recommend interview asks if we are sympathetic to apostate groups or persons. If we are, we are unworthy of a recommend. Putting Steve Benson's name 'in lights' by way of printing his cartoons, is in my opinion showing sympathy," Dallin wrote.
Gholdston said Benson's work has become so controversial the paper was rejecting more cartoons than it printed. The cartoons were not phased out as a result of the letter, but he acknowledged it pushed the process forward.
"Well, it reminded us we had already plowed the ground once and just hadn't followed through with it," Gholdston said.
Benson, who graduated cum laude in political science in 1979, works at The Arizona Republic and won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartoons in 1993. His work is syndicated by United Features and distributed to about 200 newspapers nationwide. His cartoons will be replaced at the Universe by Chicago Tribune cartoonist Jeff MacNelly and work by student cartoonist Aaron Taylor. The Mormon Church also owns the Deseret News in Salt Lake City. Editorial writer Mike Cannon said Wednesday the newspaper subscribes to Benson's cartoons but rarely uses them.
"We have eight or 10 cartoonists we choose from. He wouldn't run a lot of the time, but we do use him occasionally," Cannon said.
Last week, Gholdston rejected a cartoon that showed a large, muscular Army drill sergeant demonstrating a push-up while atop a female soldier. Benson could not be reached for comment Wednesday.
The Associated Press reported Tuesday, however, that he said, "if the editors at the Daily Universe want me to paint a smiley face on sexual abuse, rape and harassment, they've got the wrong cartoonist -- clearly. BYU has so violated the strictures of academic freedom and intellectual discourse that I consider it an embarrassment to have graduated from there. If I could find my diploma, I would return it."