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Texas governor demands apology over newspaper's plant blast cartoon

From AnneClaire Stapleton and Lateef Mungin, CNN
updated 5:33 AM EDT, Mon April 29, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • "I won't stand for someone mocking the tragic deaths," Perry says
  • Cartoonist says he stands by his work
  • The cartoon was published the same day as the memorial for victims

(CNN) -- Texas Gov. Rick Perry is demanding an apology from a California newspaper that published a cartoon that seemed to link his push for less regulations to the recent fertilizer plant explosion that killed 14.

"The Sacramento Bee published a disgusting 'cartoon' mocking the deadly explosion in West. While I will always welcome healthy policy debate, I won't stand for someone mocking the tragic deaths of my fellow Texans and our fellow Americans. I have written the editor and asked that they apologize to the citizens of West," Perry wrote on his official Facebook page.

An editor at the paper defended the cartoon.

U.S. President Barack Obama attends a memorial service at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, on April 25. The memorial was held for those killed in the blast at a Texas fertilizer plant. Fourteen people, nearly all first responders, died in an explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. on April 17. See photos from the explosion. U.S. President Barack Obama attends a memorial service at Baylor University in Waco, Texas, on April 25. The memorial was held for those killed in the blast at a Texas fertilizer plant. Fourteen people, nearly all first responders, died in an explosion at the West Fertilizer Co. on April 17. See photos from the explosion.
West, Texas: A community mourns
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West, Texas: A community mourns West, Texas: A community mourns
Forensic mappers work the crater at the site of a fire and explosion in West, Texas, on April 24, 2013. The West Fertilizer Co. plant in the small Texas town exploded days earlier on April 17, killing 15 people. Forensic mappers work the crater at the site of a fire and explosion in West, Texas, on April 24, 2013. The West Fertilizer Co. plant in the small Texas town exploded days earlier on April 17, killing 15 people.
Texas fertilizer plant explodes
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Photos: Texas fertilizer plant explodes Photos: Texas fertilizer plant explodes

"Jack Ohman's cartoon of April 25 made a strong statement about Gov. Rick Perry's disregard for worker safety, and his attempts to market Texas as a place where industries can thrive with few regulations," said Stuart Leavenworth, the paper's editorial page editor. "It is unfortunate that Gov. Perry, and some on the blogosphere, have attempted to interpret the cartoon as being disrespectful of the victims of this tragedy."

Editorial Cartoonist Jack Ohman also responded to some reader criticism of his cartoon in a column Thursday.

Ohman said he stood by the cartoon and listed many reasons he believes Perry's policies deserve scrutiny.

"The Texas governor's campaigning notwithstanding, should I have used the explosion as a vehicle to illustrate my point? I did. I stand by it," Ohman wrote.

The cartoon, published Thursday, shows Perry standing at a podium in front of signs about lower taxes and lower regulations proclaiming "Business is booming in Texas."

The next frame of the cartoon shows a huge explosion alluding to the April 17 fertilizer plant tragedy in West, Texas, that killed 14 people, injured up to 200 and destroyed more than 100 homes.

Days after the cartoon was published, it was still drawing mostly negative responses on the Sacramento Bee website.

The explosion created a crater nearly 100 feet wide and 10 feet deep, and devastated the small town. Officials are still trying to determine what caused the fire that lead to the explosion.

Perry said he was offended the cartoon was published Thursday, the same day the governor, President Barack Obama and many others gathered for a memorial for the victims.

"Publishing this on the very day our state and nation paused to honor and mourn those who died only compounds the pain and suffering of the many Texans," Perry wrote.

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