Thursday, September 18th, 2014

Cartoonist incorrect about last state inspection of Texas plant

Editorial cartoonist Jack Ohman's depiction of Gov. Rick Perry and the explosion of a plant in West, Texas, appeared April 25, 2013 in California's Sacramento Bee.
Editorial cartoonist Jack Ohman's depiction of Gov. Rick Perry and the explosion of a plant in West, Texas, appeared April 25, 2013 in California's Sacramento Bee.

Defending an editorial cartoon that ticked off Gov. Rick Perry, creator Jack Ohman said he intended to make a provocative point about government oversight in the wake of a Texas disaster that left 14 people dead and 200 injured.

The April 25, 2013, cartoon by Ohman, editorial cartoonist for the Sacramento (Calif.) Bee, depicts Perry as making one of his pitches for businesses to come to Texas. In the cartoon’s first panel, Perry says from behind a dais: "Business is booming in Texas!" The cartoon’s next panel shows the April 17, 2013, explosion of the fertilizer plant in West, Texas, with "BOOM!" in red letters plus a flag with "low regs" visible near flames.

Challenging the cartoon, Perry said in a letter to the Bee, published April 26, 2013, that "I won't stand for someone mocking the tragic deaths of my fellow Texans and our fellow Americans... The Bee owes the community of West, Texas an immediate apology for your detestable attempt at satire."

Stuart Leavenworth, who edits the Bee’s editorial page, which aired a few negative factual claims about Texas drawing Truth-O-Meter attention in 2012 (peek to the right), stood by the cartoon. For his part, Ohman wrote in an article posted after the cartoon debuted April 25, 2013: "The Texas chemical plant had not been inspected by the state of Texas since 2006. That's seven years ago. You may have read in the news that Gov. Perry, during his business recruiting trips to California and Illinois, generally described his state as free from high taxes and burdensome regulation. One of the burdensome regulations he neglected to mention was the fact that his state hadn't really gotten around to checking out that fertilizer plant."

We looked into Ohman’s claim that the state last inspected, or checked, the plant in 2006, which did not check out. We noted, too, that the issue of which agencies, state or federal, could or should have headed off the explosion has not (and may not be) settled.

Our full check--and our previous checks of Texas-centric claims by the Bee editorial board--are piled to the right.