The editors of the Arizona Daily Wildcat, the student newspaper for the University of Arizona, have formally apologized for publishing a cartoon that seems to advocate violence against gay people. The apology says, "The Wildcat staff made a serious error in judgment in printing a cartoon that some readers felt was homophobic and inappropriate."
The four-panel comic, written by UA student D.C. Parsons and published Tuesday, features a father telling his young son, "If you ever tell me you're gay ... I will shoot you with my shotgun, roll you up in a carpet and throw you off of a bridge."
"Well I guess that's what they call a Fruit Roll-Up!" the child responds, before the two characters are seen laughing hysterically.
Reader response was harsh and swift, including the creation of a petition on Change.org calling for the cartoonist, editor in chief, and copy editor to be fired. The petition has more than 3,000 signatures.
The student cartoonist also publicly apologized, stopping short of a full mea culpa.
"I would like to formally apologize to anyone who I may have offended in my comic 'etc.' on Tuesday. The comic was not intended to offend," wrote Parsons in a response posted on the Wildcat's website. "It was based on an experience from my childhood. My father is a devout conservative from a previous generation, and I believe he was simply distraught from the fact that I had learned (from The Simpsons) what homosexuality was at such a young age. I have always used humor as a coping mechanism, much like society does when addressing social taboos. … I do sincerely apologize and sympathize with anyone who may be offended by my comics (I am often similarly offended by 'Ralph and Chuck'), but keep in mind it is only a joke, and what's worse than a joke is a society that selectively ignores its problems."
Several commenters pointed out that what's actually worse than a vastly unfunny joke is a society that condemns LGBT people for who they are and makes light of the fact that they are so often victims of murder, suicide, and assault.