“Smile and Move On”: Paul Godfrey on Racism


On Sunday, the Toronto Sun ran the above cartoon (by Anthony Donato) on this cartoon of Olivia Chow. Chow denounced the cartoon as “racist” and “sexist” (two characterizations I agree with). I thought it would be productive to find out what Paul Godfrey, who runs the large media outfit that is about to buy the Toronto Sun (and who ran the Sun years ago) thought about this. Our conversation from last night and today, carried out on email, is pasted below.

Dear Mr. Godfrey,

My name is Jeet Heer. I’m a freelance writer — I’ve written for many publications including The New Yorker, The Guardian, the Globe and Mail. Many moons ago I used to work for the National Post, where I was a columnist.
I’m writing to you about a controversy over a cartoon that ran in the Toronto Sun, featuring Olivia Chow in a Mao Suit. You can see the cartoon here:
As you will see, the cartoon depicts Ms. Chow rather in the manner of a Kim Il-Jung, as a malevolent dwarf. The imagery calls to mind the depiction of Asians in “Yellow Peril” cartoons of the early 20th century.
Many people, including Chow herself, called this cartoon racist and sexist.
The Toronto Sun, which I understand you are in the process of purchasing, denies this charge. See here: https://twitter.com/GraphicMatt/status/526953920476626944
As the prospective owner of the Toronto Sun, I want to know whether you think this cartoon is, as the paper you are purchasing insists, not racist and not sexist?
Can you please answer this question. I will be happy to quote your answer (or non-answer) the article I am working on.
Best, Jeet Heer
Godfrey’s response:
Jeet, I did not see the cartoon in question so for that reason it is difficult to give you an opinion on it.
Secondly as a person who has been the the subject of jokes/ridicule etc in cartoons in many publications over the years I fully realize that newspaper cartoons poke fun at public figures surrounding serious topics. All you have to do is take a look at today’s newspapers.
I have learned from personal experience to smile and move on. The public usually do the same thing.
My response:
Dear Mr. Godfrey,

Thank you very much for your prompt and extended response. In terms of seeing the cartoon, it is widely available on the internet. I provided a link in my original email. Here is another: http://o.canada.com/news/olivia-chow-andy-donato-toronto-sun-racist-sexist-cartoon-535578
Since Mr. Donato will soon be in your employ and he’s the person most closely associated in the public mind with the Sun Media (having been at the Toronto Sun since its inception in 1971), perhaps you can look at the cartoon and offer an opinion.
[Jeet Heer]
Godfrey’s response:
I have now seen Andy Donato’s cartoon. I have always thought Donato to be one of the finest cartoonist in Canada. In fact, I continually refer to him as the Franchise of the Sun chain..
Having said that I repeat what I stated in my previous email to you. Cartoons in newspapers often poke fun at serious news items and that was what he is doing here. Donato is neither racist or sexist. I know that because I worked with him for almost 16 years,  He has often poked fun at me in cartoons for years making fun of my surgically corrected jaw.
People who enter all forms of public life may from time to time not like what a cartoonist produces. I do not believe he crossed the line of good taste on this cartoon.
[Paul Godfrey]
My response:
Thank you.
[Jeet Heer]

13 thoughts on ““Smile and Move On”: Paul Godfrey on Racism

  1. Good to see that the Sun’s biased views will not change under new ownership, not that i expected that they would since Mr Godfrey has been at the helm before.

    Looking at the cartoon for the 47th time I noticed something that I hadn’t before, that Ms Chow is actually standing on her dead husband’s jacket implying that she was riding Jack’s coat tails. Now I am offended all over again.

  2. Paul Godfrey, you exemplify chutzpah unbound……now perhaps you shall grant impending licence to your pit-bull cartoonist Donato to depict your kind of people as hooked-nose, stooped-over, greedy-hands-with-long-sinewy-fingers-pressed-together-into-a-tent caricatures……ala Fagin or a Shylock….. and it will be all right with you.

    And for certain, I will hear you say “Smile and move on”.

    After all, nothing is too racist for scumrag Sun tabloids.

  3. Oh…….I forgot. He said Donato had ‘skewered’ him before in cartoons by making fun of his surgically-corrected jaw. LOL …..his injected comic relief….what a joke !

    But seriously, now I know whither goes his pre-corrected jawbone.

    Good old Samson borrowed it to slay one thousand Philistines.

  4. Contentiously cartooning a continuum is no mean feat . Pauls` repose prigged to mind some strains of familiar yet haunting songs on a similar theme of ‘smile and move on’. ..And as they say music soothes our hearts. A few smiling and walking themed songs came to mind ;
    1) Walk on By – Dionne Warwick
    2) Walk on By – The Stranglers
    3) Smile and Wave – The Headstones
    4) The Walker – Fitz and the Tantrums

    For wherever your heartbeats may propel you ; there you are (Buckaroo Bonzai)

  5. I used to do cartooning & caricature. Donato is – artistically & intellectually – about on the level of one of those street caricaturists. Except if he were actually on the street he’d have to have resorted to outright begging by now. Sloppy, lazy, & just plain bad; it’s amazing he is still employed, in a field that has Gable & Aislin to name but two.
    Racism is just another bad word on Donato’s failure grade report card.

  6. After having this on the pondering backburner I think I’ve come up with an interesting theory about the relationship between catoonists and the politicians they’re mean to……………huh

    Of course, it’s all just about manipulation

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