The intensity of feelings about race inside newsrooms is leading to surprising revelations. On Wednesday afternoon, The Washington Post reported that its own staunchly liberal political cartoonist Tom Toles allowed a woman to wear blackface at his 2018 Halloween party – mocking Megyn Kelly’s comments about children’s Halloween costumes on Today – and then lied to people who were upset, claiming he didn’t know who she was.
This is the same Tom Toles who did a cartoon comparing Obamacare opponents to segregationist Alabama Democrat George Wallace, and the same cartoonist who mocked opponents of political correctness, claiming they thought ‘I am so sick of not being able to insult and belittle women and minorities.”
Now the PC Police have come for Toles, and his lady friend who upset the minorities – and the Post is outing the whole thing. Will he get fired after the newsroom erupts in outrage? If an editor can lose his job for a mere headline of "Buildings Matter, Too," why not Toles?
At the 2018 party at the home of The Washington Post’s editorial cartoonist, in addition to several Ruth Bader Ginsburgs, someone dressed as the “Mueller Witch Hunt” and Post columnist Dana Milbank came as just-confirmed Supreme Court Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, complete with a beer-dispensing device on his head. A guest named Lexie Gruber wore a scary “Beetlejuice” get-up and called herself “dead.”
A middle-aged white woman named Sue Schafer wore a conservative business suit and a name tag that said, “Hello, My Name is Megyn Kelly.” Her face was almost entirely blackened with makeup. Kelly, then an NBC morning show host, had just that week caused a stir by defending the use of blackface by white people: “When I was a kid, that was okay, as long as you were dressing up as, like, a character.”
So just before heading over to the party, Schafer, a graphic designer and friend of Toles, decided to dress as Kelly in blackface to mock her, she said.
It was Gruber who decided after the death of George Floyd that she would revisit this party with Toles.
Toles, a 68-year-old Pulitzer Prize winner whose cartoons playfully and often bitingly express a decidedly liberal perspective, replied to Gruber’s email last week with “apologies for your experience at the party. A lot of people show up who I don’t know, and I don’t recognize the woman you’re inquiring about.”
Toles did not tell Gruber who had worn blackface.
But Toles did know Schafer, who had been to his parties before and is a friend of his family.
When he denied to Gruber that he recognized Schafer, Toles said in an interview Sunday night, “I meant that I didn’t recognize any bad intent. I didn’t feel it was my place to tell her who my other guest was when she had misinterpreted what the other guest intended” with her costume.
Please! Toles said he told Schafer it was “an ill-considered attempt at satire,” but then he wasn’t sure.
Later in the interview, Toles said he was not certain that he had told Schafer at the party what he thought of her costume. “I may have told her that wearing blackface wasn’t appropriate, but I’m not sure I did,” he said, “and maybe I should have. . . . I could have told her to leave. I didn’t and that’s on me. Maybe I should have.”
Toles’s boss, Post Editorial Page Editor Fred Hiatt, said: “Blackface is abhorrent, period. I know Tom feels the same way, I know he wishes he had made that clearer to the person who came to his party wearing an offensive costume, and I’m glad he has apologized.”
Sean Davis of The Federalist tweeted out this story, tsk-tsking: "The blackface is coming from inside the Washington Post. These are the people who've appointed themselves the arbiters of who is and is not racist."
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