Nova Scotia

'You can't ... look away': Halifax cartoonist on his image of Lady Justice with a hand over her mouth

Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon for the Chronicle Herald features Lady Justice being pinned down and smothered. He was inspired by Christine Blasey Ford's testimony against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. "The cartoon had an impact. And that's all you can hope for as a cartoonist," MacKinnon said.

WARNING: This story contains graphic and disturbing content

Bruce MacKinnon's cartoon based on Christine Blasey Ford's testimony has been repeatedly shared on Facebook and is drawing strong reaction. (CBC)

Lady Justice is on her back, blindfolded. And above her, a man with the Republican Party's logo on his shirt cuffs, is pinning her down with one hand and covering her mouth with the other.

Bruce MacKinnon drew the cartoon for Nova Scotia's Chronicle Herald newspaper, inspired by Christine Blasey Ford's Senate judiciary committee testimony last week against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh.

"I understand it's hard for people to look at, especially people who might be survivors of sexual assault," MacKinnon told CBC News. 

"For that reason though, I think a lot of people also agree that you can't turn off the conversation, pretend it didn't happen or look away."

A powerful political cartoon depicting the assault of Lady Justice has gone viral in the wake of recent allegations against Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh. (Bruce MacKinnon/The Chronicle Herald/Canadian Press)

Ford told the committee Kavanaugh sexually assaulted her when they were in high school.

She alleges that a drunken, 17-year-old Kavanaugh forced her down on a bed, groped her and tried to take off her clothes during a high school gathering in the summer of 1982. She was 15 at the time.

Kavanaugh denied the allegations.

'Powerful and emotional' testimony

Like many people, MacKinnon was glued to the coverage last week.

"She gave her testimony, it was so powerful and emotional. You couldn't even take a breath until it was done," said MacKinnon.

MacKinnon said the cartoon mirrors the alleged attack: "Lady Justice being smothered the way Dr. Ford was allegedly attacked by Kavanaugh back when she was a teenager."

Cartoon from 'perpetrator' perspective

MacKinnon said he drew the picture from the angle of "the perpetrator."

"Which is kind of a shocking camera angle, but it was just sort of what was in my head — a bit of a difficult angle to draw from, but it seemed to flow out of the pen pretty naturally," he said.

"So I think just the way the image fell on the paper kind of grabs a lot of people."

Since the cartoon was posted Saturday, the cartoon has had a lot of response from people across North America, both from people who believe Ford and those who support Kavanaugh.

Impact 'all you can hope for' as a cartoonist

The Washington Post wrote a short piece about it Saturday.

"I guess that means the cartoon had an impact. And that's all you can hope for as a cartoonist," he said.

As of 3 p.m. AT Sunday, the cartoon had been shared more than 9,000 times from his Facebook account.

"To underscore the importance of the decision to allow someone who is going to be making decisions on the highest court of the land, to have that shadow hanging over his or her past, I think that's a pretty weighty decision," he said.

"A shocking image is probably the only way to be effective."

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Anjuli Patil


Anjuli Patil is a reporter and occasional video journalist with CBC Nova Scotia's digital team.