Breeden: Only One Cartoon Was Lifted

Cartoonist defends her other drawings; offers to take a polygraph

Kathleen E. Breeden ’09, the former Crimson editorial cartoonist whose series was discontinued this week after a plagiarism investigation, admitted yesterday to unintentionally copying the work of Newsday cartoonist Walt Handelsman, but she defended the integrity of the other cartoons under investigation, including the second drawing retracted by The Crimson.

An investigation by The Crimson has cleared her name in three other cases. She, along with Victoria B. Ilyinsky ’07—whose column was discontinued a week ago for the failure to properly attribute sources—will be allowed to reapply for her former position in the spring.

Breeden said she takes full responsibility for the similarity to Handelsman’s cartoon but cited “mitigating factors” she would not disclose.

“I know in the one case with the Handelsman cartoon, I had seen that before, so I support The Crimson’s decision to pull the cartoon,” Breeden said in an interview yesterday. Both Breeden’s Oct. 25 cartoon and Handelsman’s cartoon depict President Bush and a democratic donkey standing side by side.

Breeden said that she had apologized and explained the situation to Handelsman in an e-mail.

Crimson President William C. Marra ’07 wrote in an e-mail that an internal investigation concluded that Breeden had copied both her Oct. 25 cartoon and her Oct. 18 piece that strongly resembles a cartoon by Stephen P. Breen of the San Diego Union-Tribune. Both cartoons depict North Korean citizens grovelling before a nuclear missile.

Breeden agreed that her cartoon is “unusually similar” to Breen’s but said she has defended that piece in her conversations with Marra and Editorial Chairs Michael B. Broukhim ’07 and Matthew S. Meisel ’07 this week.

“I offered to take a polygraph test,” Breeden said.

Breeden said that she had also written to Breen and that he had accepted her explanation. “I sent a long explanation of that one to him listing out my entire thought process, and I got a really good response from him,” Breeden said. “He was really gracious.”

Breen told The Crimson on Monday that he was “troubled” by how similar the cartoons were, but he said Breeden should be given a second chance.

Handelsman and Breen could not be reached for comment yesterday.

Marra said that the investigation confirmed that Breeden’s Sept. 22 and Oct. 11 cartoons are Breeden’s original work.

While further investigation yesterday uncovered another instance of similarity—between a cartoon Breeden drew last March and a Sept. 29, 2005, cartoon by Bob Englehart of the Hartford Courant—the editors wrote that Breeden had been cleared in that case as well. Both cartoons depict former Federal Emergency Management Agency head Michael Brown with eight arms, although Breeden represents him as the Hindu god Ganesh.

Both Breeden and Ilyinsky will be invited to apply for a cartoon series or column at the start of the spring semester, Marra wrote. Breeden will continue to draw illustrations to accompany opinion pieces on the editorial page, he added.

Breeden said that she intends to reapply and that she would be “significantly more careful” if given another chance as an editorial cartoonist.

Marra added that The Crimson’s editorial board will be instituting training seminars for cartoonists and columnists, “not all of whom have gone through The Crimson’s rigorous content comp process.” Editors will continue to be “on alert for potential plagiarism,” Marra wrote.

—Staff writer Laurence H. M. Holland can be reached at lholland@fas.harvard.edu.