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Read the letter: David Simpson apologizes to Susie MacNelly
Jeff MacNelly’s widow, Susie MacNelly, received an apology letter from the now former Urban Tulsa editorial cartoonist David Simpson admitting he “stole” Jeff’s Jimmy Carter cartoon that was brought to light last week.
With her permission, I’m sharing that letter.
Here is the original letter:
I’m very sorry that I stole Jeff’s Carter cartoon from the seventies. I accidentally stole the cartoon 25 years ago when I worked at the now defunct Tulsa Tribune, not three weeks ago for the Urban Tulsa Weekly.
I have thousands of old drawings from 40 years of cartooning out in boxes in my garage. I came across the cartoon in question (American Airlines was the subject) and thought, hey, this would be great for the local Great Plain Airlines controversy, so I changed the captions and sent it out for that week’s Urban Tulsa.
I honestly didn’t know that I had swiped it 25 years earlier. But that’s no excuse, I’m completely to blame. The people at Urban Tulsa didn’t know anything about this.
Jeff’s syndicated cartoon ran in the Tulsa Tribune for 20 years and in the Tulsa World for eight, until his death. Jeff was the greatest cartoonist of his generation and none of his contemporaries (like me) could keep up with him.
The Urban Tulsa publisher is running his letter this week telling this story and firing me. Again, I sincerely apologize.
There is A LOT in this letter. A few thoughts:
How do you accidentally steal something?
He admits to stealing the MacNelly Carter cartoon, but says nothing of the next weeks cartoon that he stole. Surely he knew that was a theft as well.
The found the cartoon in the garage excuse is very similar to the excuse he gave when he was caught plagiarizing the Bob Englehart cartoon. Back in 2005, he stated that he found the Englehart cartoon “in his creative files and mistakenly believed it was his own.”
Depending on how it is read, one might infer that Simpson copied the same Jimmy Carter cartoon 25 years ago and is now plagiarizing it a second time. The first time he may have used it was on the topic of American Airlines – which was not the topic of Jeff MacNelly’s original cartoon. The second time is the recent Great Plains Airlines controversy. Plagiarizing a previously plagiarized cartoon.
This is the source I mentioned last night stating that the Poynter report that he resigned is false. Simpson admits he was fired.
I have emailed Simpson personally inviting him to respond to this whole mess. I’ll post anything he sends my way, should he choose to respond. The publisher of the Urban Tulsa is supposed to release a statement today as well. I’ll share that as soon as I get it.