Severin won't seek endorsement of newspaper that ran offensive political cartoon
The Southern Illinoisan's apology for running a political cartoon that law enforcement officials and many others found offensive wasn't enough for the Benton businessman and Republican candidate trying to win the state House race in District 117.
Dave Severin, who is running against state Rep. John Bradley (D-Marion) for the Illinois House, said he doesn't want the endorsement of The Southern Illinoisan after the newspaper ran a political cartoon that portrayed Tulsa police killing an unarmed black man.
"I was scheduled to be interviewed by The Southern Illinoisan’s editorial board on Oct. 6 in the hopes of receiving their endorsement," Severin said. "Today I am announcing that I do not wish to receive their endorsement and will disavow it should I receive their recommendation. On Sunday, Sept. 25th, The Southern Illinosian’s editorial board decided to publish an offensive and inappropriate 'cartoon' attacking the men and women who serve and protect our communities every day as law enforcement officials. These brave men and women deserve our respect and our gratitude — nothing less. I do not want The Southern Illinoisian’s endorsement and I will not seek it."
Craig Rogers, publisher of The Southern Illinoisan, which is owned by Lee Enterprises, apologized soon after the cartoon was printed. The cartoon that showed a black man lying dead at the feet of three police officers registered a hail of criticism, online and off. The cartoon's caption reads: "His hands weren't up high enough." The side of the Tulsa police car in the background reads, "Black lives don't matter" and the car's roof bears a lengthy kill count.
"Though we respect diverse opinions, we do not believe this was in good taste, nor constructive for dialog at the national or local level," Rogers said in the newspaper's apology. "We value the service of law enforcement officers serving southern Illinois, who put their lives on the line every day to keep our communities safe."
A subsequent editorial on The Southern Illinoisan’s opinion page attempted to explain why the newspaper ran the cartoon. "It’s never our intention to make readers unnecessarily uncomfortable, though recent events in the world and across our country have had that effect on all of us," the editorial said. "We do intend to provide commentary from a variety of sources that brings into a logical focus the most unsettling issues and debates.
"An editorial cartoon we published Sunday on the Opinion page didn’t live up to those desires nor did it advance the conversation beyond the emotion of another police-involved shooting," the editorial continued. "Instead, the syndicated editorial cartoon about the Tulsa Police Department’s involvement in the shooting of an unarmed black man further outraged many of you. That was not our intention, nor was it to cast any doubt about the effectiveness of law enforcement there, here or anywhere."
The Southern Illinoisan has not yet endorsed a candidate in the 117th District race and, with Severin's decision not to be formally interviewed by the newspaper's editorial board, it's not clear that it will.
Severin, the first challenger to run against Bradley since the Democrat incumbent won his state house seat in 2003, announced his candidacy last fall, promising budget solutions and to improve the state's reputation.
Severin has lived his entire life in Benton, graduating from Benton High School and attending Logan Community College before going to work in his parents’ nursing home business, his campaign website reports. After more than 20 years in his parents' business, Severin started his own in a Benton Town Square location in 2004.
In the same statement in which he said he will not seek the The Southern Illinoisan's endorsement, Severin said he would not restrict access and will continue to provide statements and interviews to the newspaper's reporters.
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