Watch CBS News

Penn's interim president calls lecturer's political cartoons "reprehensible" and "antisemitic"

University of Pennsylvania professor under fire for political cartoons on Israel-Hamas war
University of Pennsylvania professor under fire for political cartoons on Israel-Hamas war 00:45

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- A University of Pennsylvania lecturer is under fire for political cartoons on the Israel-Hamas war that he shared on his website. 

Dwayne Booth, a lecturer at Penn's Annenberg Undergraduate Program, posted the political cartoons on his personal website. Booth, also known as Mr. Fish, has been a cartoonist and writer for 20 years. 

Dr. J. Larry Jameson, the interim president at Penn, called the political cartoons "reprehensible" and "antisemitic" on Sunday night. 

"There are times when leaders should weigh in on the values and principles that guide and define an institution. Recent political cartoons make this one of them.

I will not, and should not, respond to every event on our campus, but I want it understood that these political cartoons, posted on a personal website, were not taught in the classroom and do not reflect the views of the University of Pennsylvania or me, personally. I find them reprehensible, with antisemitic symbols, and incongruent with our efforts to fight hate. They disrespect the feelings and experiences of many people in our community and around the world, particularly those only a generation removed from the Holocaust. And, for me, it is painful to see the suffering and tragic loss of life of noncombatants in Israel and Gaza be fodder for satire.

At Penn, we have a bedrock commitment to open expression and academic freedom, principles that were unanimously reaffirmed last week by our Faculty Senate Executive Committee. We also have a responsibility to challenge what we find offensive, and to do so acknowledging the right and ability of members of our community to express their views, however loathsome we find them.

These core values are fundamental, but the boundaries are not absolute—they are defined by both the listener and the speaker. Not everything that can be said, should be said. This requires us to exercise judgment and demonstrate respect for other members of our community. In recent months, we have advanced important work to combat antisemitism and hate. We have strengthened security to support a safe environment for learning. We have created forums to discuss and debate the issues of our time. I call on the more than 50,000 members of the Penn community to redouble our efforts to be respectful and supportive of one another when exploring our differences through civil discourse," Dr. Jameson wrote in a statement. 

Booth responded to the statement on his Instagram account and wrote in part: "Cartoonists have set themselves willingly into such crosshairs for, quite literally, many centuries. Done effectively, and in service of keeping the democracy strong, I hope it continues."

Representatives at Penn have not said whether Booth will face disciplinary action.   

The controversy comes as Penn is under investigation by the Department of Education for alleged antisemitism and Islamophobia. The university is also under investigation for antisemitism and its tax-exempt status by the House Ways and Means Committee. 

In December, former president Liz Magill resigned following a congressional hearing on antisemitism. Board chair Scott Bok also resigned following the controversial hearing.

Penn is currently working to hire a full-time president while Dr. Jameson serves in the interim. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.