A Close Call on Publication of Charlie Hebdo Cartoons

Margaret Sullivan, New York Times, January 8, 2015

Was The Times cowardly and lacking in journalistic solidarity when it decided not to publish the images from the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that precipitated the execution of French journalists?

Some readers I’ve heard from certainly think so. Evan Levine of New York City wrote: “I just wanted to register my extreme disappointment at what can only be described as a dereliction of leadership and responsibility by the New York Times in deciding not to publish the Charlie Hebdo cartoons after today’s massacre.”


And many outside commenters and press critics agreed. Jeff Jarvis of City University of New York wrote: “If you’re the paper of record, if you’re the highest exemplar of American journalism, if you expect others to stand by your journalists when they are threatened, if you respect your audience to make up its own mind, then dammit stand by Charlie Hebdo and inform your public. Run the cartoons.”

I talked to the executive editor, Dean Baquet, on Thursday morning about his decision not to show the images of the prophet Muhammad–a position that was taken by The Washington Post (on its news pages), The Associated Press, CNN and many other American news organizations. BuzzFeed and the Huffington Post were among those that did publish the cartoons.


Mr. Baquet told me that he started out the day Wednesday convinced that The Times should publish the images, both because of their newsworthiness and out of a sense of solidarity with the slain journalists and the right of free expression.

He said he had spent “about half of my day” on the question, seeking out the views of senior editors and reaching out to reporters and editors in some of The Times’s international bureaus. They told him they would not feel endangered if The Times reproduced the images, he told me, but he remained concerned about staff safety.

“I sought out a lot of views, and I changed my mind twice,” he said. “It had to be my decision alone.”

Ultimately, he decided against it, he said, because he had to consider foremost the sensibilities of Times readers, especially its Muslim readers. To many of them, he said, depictions of the prophet Muhammad are sacrilegious; those that are meant to mock even more so. “We have a standard that is long held and that serves us well: that there is a line between gratuitous insult and satire. Most of these are gratuitous insult.”

“At what point does news value override our standards?” Mr. Baquet asked. “You would have to show the most incendiary images” from the newspaper; and that was something he deemed unacceptable.


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  • MekongDelta69

    “Was The Times cowardly and lacking in journalistic solidarity when it decided not to publish the images from the French satirical newspaper Charlie Hebdo that precipitated the execution of French journalists?”

    Uhh… I’m gonna go with a resounding YES for a thousand Alex…

  • Lewis33

    This was taken straight from the NYT website, no problems publishing this one.

    • JackKrak

      Yeah, the NYT editors probably wrestled with the journalistic implications of running with this for at least five seconds before deciding to go with it.

    • Paleoconn

      They also did one of the Virgin in dung. But then what else do we expect from the birdcage liner of record.

      • Charles Martel

        IIRC they also praised it and mocked then Mayor Giuliani for objecting to it.

    • Augustus3709

      There is no contradiction because they see both damaging Christianity, and promoting Islam, as effective strategies to damage and bring down the West, which is their true goal.

    • Who Me?

      I am not even a Christian, and I think that really is horrible, lacking in taste and in “art”, and is degrading to the “artist”. It is not degrading to it’s subject, because Jesus Christ is bigger than that. He doesn’t need protection by his followers. However, many, many Christians were deeply offended by it. You didn’t see any mass killings, riots in the streets or other civil unrest because of it did you? I didn’t.

      • Daniel McGrath

        In a technical sense the crucifixion was the meanest cruelest most humiliating punishment imaginable. I’d guess victims would befoul themselves as they were nailed up and over the course of days bowels would empty and vomit would spew up.

        It’s not totally without a poetry.

        • je suis paganisme

          Yes, you could say that entering the sinful world, for one who was the incarnation of God, would be like entering a toilet bowl for us ordinary mortals.

          I am surprised that no Christian has put this forth.

      • Ella

        Additionally, they rubbed salt into the wounds since they used tax monies to fund the junk labelled “art.”

  • superlloyd

    Craven cowardice and idiot kowtowing to the intolerant muslim invaders and destroyers.

  • ThatWhiteGuy

    Modern liberalism is the epitome of cowardice.

  • dd121

    The US msm are cowardly in so many ways…

    • See The Future

      Not cowardly, just anti-white.

      • meanqueen

        Oh, no, they’re cowardly. It’s just that they are ALSO anti-white.

  • NoMosqueHere

    The people who own, manage, and write for the NY Times always provide support for the “legitimate” rights of radical blacks and various repugnant muslim groups. Such groups never receive an adverse presumption in the Times, no matter how atrocious the acts of the individual group members are.

    Almost all the Times big shots live in lily white neighborhoods, including luxury Manhattan apartment buildings with doormen who serve as their protectors. But who are they protected from exactly? Well, let’s see…who in NYC and around the world disproportionately attack affluent and/or productive white christians and jews? Anyone want to hazard a guess? (see above, for the clueless).

    • Speedy Steve

      What do you expect from the despicable Sulzburger family?

  • a multiracial individual

    Nonsense. If the artwork depicting Muhammad has been flattering it still would have been left out.

  • Flanders21

    As a defender of Western civilzation i am offended Amren recently “removed” these two graphs…


  • See The Future

    The proper response would be to never ever buy another copy of NY Times.

    • willbest

      I suppose that would have been my response if I hadn’t made a similar declaration over 15 years ago, which I have kept to this day.

      • See The Future

        I have never purchased or read a NYT.

        • Samuel Hathaway

          I have never purchased the NY times either. Have glanced over it a few times, but that was at least 10-12 years ago.

        • Speedy Steve

          I’ve never even visited their website. Any paper with no funny pages is not to be trusted.

    • John Smith

      I haven’t. I dislike them being considered the yardstick by which the public is supposed to measure journalistic content. I hope they continue to suffer financially.

  • MBlanc46

    So the Muslims now determine what the NYT can publish. I think I can see where this is heading. If I had a subscription, I’d cancel it.

    • See The Future

      Anyone purchasing any popular paper media is aiding and abetting the enemy.

      • LHathaway

        It’s like paying a cable bill where the funds go to all the stations that air. You’re paying to be lied to.

      • MBlanc46

        Anyone who makes any purchase from corporate America is probably doing likewise.

    • John R

      And they say “We will never bow to terrorism”? Yeah, right.

  • willbest

    Apparently the only way Christians are going to get a fair shake is if they start blowing up/shooting up media organizations that debase Jesus.

    • Johnny

      That’s what’s known in common parlance as a target rich environment.

    • See The Future

      Bang on!!

    • Lkoehn

      The only problem I see with that is that it wont make Jesus very happy. I am very confident that He can fix things on His own.

  • Johnny

    It seems everyone and every news organization is je suis Charlie, except the vast majority had never, and will never, publish the cartoons.

  • Paleoconn

    Not a fan of the cartoons. But at least after the murders, every paper should publish them. Every person on the net should have it as an avatar.

    • John R

      THANK YOU! You are so right. I am tired of hearing about “moderate Muslims.” We should all make a point of being offensive to their hateful “religion.” I want to se how “moderate” they are. They don’t like it? Then go back where they came from.

  • WR_the_realist

    None of the high and mighty were the least bit concerned that Piss Christ would offend Christians.

    • See The Future

      The high and mighty will take notice when the Christians execute a few of them for offending Christianity.

      • Who Me?

        “when the Christians execute a few of them for offending Christianity.”
        They won’t.
        Christians are, at least in name, followers of Christ, who told his followers to obey the laws, one of which is “thou shalt not kill”.

    • Ella

      Plus, they used NEA (federal tax monies) for funding the exhibit. Of course the board denied that they did not know his content at the time; although, he was widely known in the art community for his pornographic and sacrilegious images.

  • John Smith

    Leftists cave into terrorists and their gutter religion yet again.

  • I’d give kudos to the Huffington Post, but they’re so hateful toward whites that I can’t bring myself to praise them for anything.

  • Lkoehn

    Oh me oh my, we must not offend Muslims at any cost. Just because they abuse women and foment terrorism in their ranks is no reason to offend them. Just because they breed like rabbits while on welfare is no reason. Just because they turn a neighborhood into a ghetto that they want to rule with their own Sharia law is no reason. Just because they dress their women in Hag Bags, OK that might be a reason after all.

    • John R

      Okay, okay, but in fairness and to show that this site is not biased, let me offer a defense of Muslims. (Sorry moderator, but we must be fair to both sides here.) The Muslims covering their women from head to toe has a good reason: Seeing how ugly Arab and African females are, at least we don’t have to actually look at them. There, see? I AM capable of putting up a rational defense of Islam. And people thought we only argued one side.

      • Lkoehn

        You are a kind man John.

  • Who Me?

    This massacre was supposedly carried out in revenge for publishing the cartoons of the prophet Muhammad–and to keep them from being shown again, or the production of more.
    Well, I guess that worked. The proper response would have been to show them in their entirety to a world-wide audience, over and over and over.
    **Show these idiots that their actions have the exact opposite result of what they desired.**
    A few occurrences of that might make them think twice before they commit more of their murderous rampages, suicidal bombings and other atrocities.

    • Charles Martel

      You give them too much credit. They do not even think once!

  • De Doc

    NYT equates Islam with brown skin. Therefore, by their reasoning, defaming this religion is racism. It’s fairly simple to understand.

    • John R

      The very definition of Cultural Marxism. A Marxist sees the Bourgeoisie as the real enemy of all humanity. “Bourgeois” means, btw, the property owners who command the labor of others. A Cultural Marxist sees as the enemy of humanity the predominate culture of the world: The Western, WHITE, Christian, European culture. Therefore anyone who is against that culture is an ally of them. That is why liberals find it so psychologically difficult to oppose Islam-despite the fact that Islam stands against everything liberals support.

  • awb

    YOU are FUNNY!

  • Screamin_Ruffed_Grouse

    Ultimately, he decided against it, he said, because he had to consider foremost the sensibilities of Times readers, especially its Muslim readers. 

    I would have no problem with this statement, if not for those last four words.

    Hedbo’s cartoons are exceptionally vulgar, and I could see refraining from running them on those grounds. I mean, I want my kids to know about Islamic barbarism, but that doesn’t mean I want their teachers playing videos of beheadings in school.

    But no, their main concern is Moslem readers. Offending them, insulting them, or treating them anything like the ways NYT feels perfectly fine treating Christians, conservatives, and anyone else who won’t murder them for being offensive.

    Are the NYT cowards? This article speaks for itself.

  • Albert

    Hmm. Sharia law or freedom of expression. Concession is given to Sharia law, a small step forward made in intimidating others to obey their rules.

  • rentslave

    Did you really expect anything different from the $aturday People?

  • notyranny

    Like their President who took a deep knee bow to his Saudi king, the NYT is just another effeminate submissive COWARD.

  • John R

    Don’t they get it? This is what is happening. Muslim terrorists commit some horrible attack on us because they are “offended” by some cartoon, or whatever. People at first vow not to be intimidated and support free speech. Then some “reasonable” person says, “Hey there are moderate Muslims out there who would also be offended by this. We don’t want to offend THEM.” So, in deference to the moderate Muslims we curtail our free speech. HELLO! Have you ever heard of the technique called “Good cop, bad cop”? That is what is happening here. The terrorists are playing bad cop to the “moderates” good cop. It is a form of manipulation and we are so obviously falling for it.

  • I am offended by the New York Times not running the cartoons.