FBI Director James Comey announced Thursday that the agency would begin cracking down on cartoonists, illustrators, and publishers that make the controversial political cartoons.
“If you depict or satirize any political figure, organization, or person in a way that is likely to provoke a response that could be perceived as political, we may investigate and seek to prosecute you,” Comey said in a statement.
“But we do not have the authority to enforce criminal penalties for satire or political cartoons.”
In a statement, the Bureau of Engraving and Printing (BIP) also said it would start cracking down, but it did not name any cartoonists.
“We’re also taking a closer look at how cartoonists use their art to draw on topics such as politics and social justice,” the statement said.
The FBI announced it was cracking down Wednesday on cartoons and illustrations that could incite a response to the election of Donald Trump, and the bureau had already made arrests for similar offenses.
The bureau is not alone in cracking down.
Earlier this month, the DOJ and FBI announced they were cracking down hard on political cartoons that depict controversial topics.
But the new policy has drawn criticism from conservatives, who have said the crackdown will unfairly target cartoonists and publishers.
“The Bureau of Cartoonistics was the first organization in the country to propose the use of criminal penalties to satirize Trump and was the last to propose it to the Department of Justice,” Vox columnist Joshua Green wrote in a piece titled “The FBI’s new cartoon policy is a total victory for political cartoonists.”
“If we’re going to prosecute cartoonists for making cartoons that are critical of Trump, then we should also be prosecuting cartoonists who make cartoons that support his administration,” he added.
The move has prompted outrage among conservative media outlets, which have taken to calling the bureau’s move “bullying.”
In response to critics, Comey said Thursday that “if we do have any future cases for criminal liability for cartoonists or publishers, we will pursue them vigorously.”
“The bureau will use all investigative tools at its disposal to bring charges against those who attempt to hurt the American people,” Comey added.
“It will be an absolute priority to ensure that we do so in a manner that does not unduly burden our civil liberties.”