Another public figure has stepped up calling for the removal of 19th century cartoonist Thomas Nast to be removed from consideration for induction into the New Jersey Hall of Fame. Assemblyman and Irish-American Scott Rudder (R-Burlington) called Nast’s representations of Irish-Catholics as “deplorable.”
New Jersey Newsroom reports that Assemblyman Rudder is but one more added to the list of people calling for Nast’s removal for inclusion. Alongside Rudder are the New Jersey Ancient Order of Hibernians, and Assemblymen Wayne P. DeAngelo (D-Mercer) and Scott Rumana (R-Passaic).
While Nast, as a popular cartoonist, created the modern and beloved visual of both Santa Claus and Uncle Sam, his other cartoons often depicted Irish-Catholics in a flagrantly horrible light.
Rudder said that Nast’s inclusion on the public ballot would be “not only insulting to New Jersey residents of Irish descent or Catholic faith, but to people of every group that has been victimized by bigotry and stereotyping.” Aside from Irish-Catholics, Nast also penned cartoons which were degrading to Germans and African-Americans.
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“The state Hall of Fame should promote tolerance and acceptance, not the racial bigotry and religious paranoia that Nast promoted in some of his work,” Rudder went on to say. “Thomas Nast used his sketch pencil as a weapon to denigrate Irish Catholics and play on public fears.”
The mission statement for the Hall of Fame notes that “By presenting significant and powerful role models … the Hall of Fame is a source of learning, inspiration and hope for children.”
Rudder has asked Don Jay Smith, the executive director of the Hall of Fame, for Nast’s name to be removed immediately.
Smith, however, remains supportive of Nast’s inclusion, especially with this being the third year he was nominated for the honor. Said Smith, “He [Nast] attacked the Irish because they were the main supporters of the Democratic machine of Tammany Hall, which he opposed. If it had been another group, he would have attacked them. The feeling on our board of commissioners is that this is his third year as a nominee, and it’s up to the public to decide if he’s worthy of the nomination.”
Nast is included in ‘General’ category for the vote, the largest of any of the groups. Other nominees for the honor right now are artists Alexander Calder, Alfred Stieglitz, Charles Addams; philanthropist Doris Duke, economist Milton Friedman, writers Joyce Carol Oates and Dorothy Parker, scholar Dorothy Porter Wesley, and former Gov. Tom Kean.