AUSTIN, Texas —
"It is unfortunate that Gov. Perry, and some on the blogosphere, have attempted to interpret the cartoon as being disrespectful for the victims of this tragedy," Leavenworth said. "As Ohman has made clear on his blog, he has complete empathy for the victims and people living by the plant. What he finds offensive is a governor who would gamble with the lives of families by not pushing for the strongest safety regulations. Perry's letter is an attempt to distract people from that message."
Ohman defended his cartoon with an Internet post, noting that the fertilizer plant "had not been inspected by the state of Texas since 2006" and that many "Texas cities have little or no zoning, resulting in homes being permitted next to sparely inspected businesses that store explosive chemicals."
"My job, as I understand it, is to be provocative," Ohman wrote. "I provoke, you decide. I don't dictate, I put out my opinion along with everyone else. I sign my name. I own it. In my opinion, I could have gone further. Much further."
California has seen Perry's touting of his state's pro-business prowess firsthand. In February, a public-private Texas marketing firm ran radio ads featuring Perry denigrating California's taxes and regulation, and then Perry traveled there to recruit jobs. He made a similar trip — this time backed by a print-media ad buy — to Chicago this past week.
Texas Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, also a Republican, called for Ohman to be fired.
"I think it's reprehensible for a member of the media to sit in safety and mock such a profound tragedy regardless of any 'point' he is trying to make," Dewhurst said.
Perry, meanwhile, wrote that the newspaper "owes the community of West, Texas, an immediate apology for your detestable attempt at satire."
Ohman posted that he had received "varying levels of concern about the cartoon depicting Gov. Rick Perry's marketing of Texas' loose regulations, juxtaposed with the explosion of the fertilizer plant in West, Texas," but that he would draw the cartoon again without thinking twice.