Horsey, David (b. 1951)

  • By Paul Lindholdt
  • Posted 10/21/2019
  • Essay 20798

David Horsey is a two-time Pulitzer Prize-winning editorial cartoonist who covered political issues, society, and popular culture during a 30-year career at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. After the P-I folded its print edition in 2009, Horsey spent six years as a cartoonist and columnist with the Los Angeles Times. In 2018, he became a cartoonist with The Seattle Times. His work has been syndicated to hundreds of newspapers around the U.S., including The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Chicago Tribune, and USA Today. Horsey's career has spanned U.S. presidents from Jimmy Carter to Donald Trump, and marquee events such as the Super Bowl, the Olympic Games, and the Academy Awards.

Early Influences

David Horsey was born on September 13, 1951, in Evansville, Indiana, and moved to Seattle at age 3 when his parents returned to their home state of Washington. He grew up in a Republican household and frequently attended political events with his father. Two of his earliest memories of politics include a street celebration at 5 years old on the night of President Dwight Eisenhower's re-election, and the Republican National Convention in San Francisco when he was 12.

Raymond W. Horsey, his father, was a musician and music teacher. After World War II, he led a dance combo that played in hotel lounges in Colorado Springs, Colorado, and Evansville, Indiana. Raymond returned to Seattle in 1954 and became an instrumental music director, first at Queen Anne High School and then at Ingraham High School. Horsey's mother, Jeanne M. Horsey, encouraged him to draw from the time he was a toddler. She could see his talent when he was as young as 4. Head of the braille program for the Seattle Public Schools, Jeanne Horsey became a prolific watercolor and mixed-media artist after her retirement.

Meanwhile, her son came of age in Seattle. Showing an early interest in writing and drawing, he drew a pretend newspaper front page in elementary school and his first political cartoon for a geography class in seventh grade. He played the French horn in the Seattle Youth Symphony and attended Ingraham High School, where he wrote editorials and cartooned for the student newspaper, The Cascade. As he matured, his artistic style was influenced by political cartoonist Pat Oliphant, Mad Magazine's Jack Davis and Mort Drucker, and by Los Angeles Free Press cartoonist Ron Cobb.

Destiny at The Daily

Horsey began his formal art training when he studied graphic design at the University of Washington. As a freshman in 1970, he was caught drawing a caricature of his weight-training instructor. More impressed than angry, Horsey's teacher urged him to join the student paper, The Daily. As he found himself skipping class and spending late nights working on the paper, he knew he had found his calling. Horsey became the paper's editor in 1974 and redirected his studies toward journalism. By 1976, he had earned a bachelor's degree in communications. He has said his cartooning was very much a self-taught skill.

Horsey developed new political views in college that challenged his conservative upbringing. The passionate political activism following the McCarthy era and civil rights movement of the 1950s and '60s reverberated to influence Horsey and other students at UW during the Vietnam War. Many student organizations were united by antiwar and social justice causes, and protests were common at universities across the country. During this period Horsey's cartoons took a sharp left turn politically. 

After college, his first full-time job was as a reporter for the Daily Journal-American in Bellevue; he started out writing about local politics and eventually became state government reporter. In 1979, Horsey got a call from Bill Asbury, his former advisor at The Daily, who had become the managing editor of the Post-Intelligencer and was looking for a cartoonist. P-I Publisher Virgil Fassio signed off on Asbury's recommendation, and Horsey landed his dream job. In his 2017 autobiography, Fassio called Horsey "the best hire I ever made" (Steel City ...).

Long Run at the Post-Intelligencer

Horsey drew cartoons and wrote political commentary for the P-I for 30 years, until the paper folded in 2009. Horsey's journalism skills and interest in American history and culture proved useful to him in illustrating firsthand impressions of the events he covered, including nearly every national political party convention and numerous presidential primaries. He did cartoons at the 1996 Summer Olympics in Atlanta and the 2006 Super Bowl. In 1995-96, Horsey worked at the Hearst Newspapers Washington Bureau. Horsey's work took him to Mexico, Japan, Europe, and along the trail of Lewis and Clark. Upon winning a Rotary Foundation scholarship, Horsey attended the University of Kent in Canterbury, England, where he earned a master's degree in international relations in 1987. In 1993, he was one of 25 professionals selected to participate in the European Union Visitors Program, a study tour intended to teach emerging leaders about the institutional workings of the European Union.

During his time at the P-I, Horsey published six collections of his work. Those books cover presidential administrations from Ronald Reagan to Barack Obama. They address social-justice issues, racial inequality, religion, abortion, and gun control. His cartoons of the Bill Clinton-Monica Lewinsky scandal in 1998 earned him his first Pulitzer Prize in 1999. He served as president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists from 2000 to 2001 and was awarded his second Pulitzer in 2003 for his cartoons covering the George W. Bush administration, international relations, environmental issues, wealth inequality, and corporate influence in America.

When the P-I stopped print publication and began publishing exclusively on the internet in 2009, Horsey continued working for Hearst Newspapers, the corporate owner of the P-I, providing cartoons to several of Hearst's newspapers across the country. In 2010, he produced a series of short travel stories for MSNBC and contributed to NBC's online coverage of the Vancouver Winter Olympics.

Into the Digital World

The P-I's switch from print publication to digital created career uncertainty for Horsey. Online publishing potentially meant more visibility for his work. At the same time, impact metrics came to measure the relevance of a journalist's output based on the number of page views. The switch from print to digital changed his sense of audience, but technological developments over the course of his career have helped him more than hindered him. Technological advances made it easier to create and deliver work for publication, even in remote locales. His pen and ink drawings could now be scanned into a computer and colored digitally. Delivery posed more of a challenge before his drawings could be sent digitally. In 1980, for instance, FedEx lost a full-page cartoon that Horsey sent to the P-I from the Democratic National Convention in New York City, and he had to redraw the entire page after a long night of partying.

In 2012, Horsey joined the Los Angeles Times. Taking over the paper's Top of the Ticket political blog, he contributed three cartoons a week and a column to accompany each one. During his time in L.A., he covered political events such as the presidential primaries and cultural events such as the Academy Awards and the Coachella Valley Music Festival. Horsey continued writing about and illustrating social-justice issues, including the Charlie Hebdo shootings, the #MeToo movement, and Black Lives Matter. His social-justice cartoons earned him a Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award in 2014 and he was again a finalist for the Pulitzer that same year. In 2012 and 2016, he published two more cartoon collections.

Recognizing the responsibility afforded to him by his position in the media, Horsey in much of his work highlighted the struggles of marginalized groups, including people of color. In 2015, he traveled through the American South as part of a civil rights pilgrimage to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the 1965 march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama. Accompanied by some 50 University of Washington students, alumni and staff members, Horsey sketched historic landmarks significant to the civil rights movement and wrote columns about the brave men and women he encountered who had participated in the struggle to achieve racial equality.

Horsey left the Los Angeles Times in 2018 to return to Seattle, where he began to do political cartoons and special news features for The Seattle Times. His work focused heavily on the Trump administration, and he continued to bring attention to environmental and social-justice issues, in addition to topical matters such as Amazon's search for a second corporate headquarters.


Discussing controversial topics is part of being a political commentator, and Horsey is accustomed to reader backlash. Still, some of his most loyal readers are those who disagree with his political views. He found himself in hotter water, though, after a Los Angeles Times article was published in 2017 in which he remarked on the physical appearance of Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary.

In the article, Horsey described Sanders' suitability for the job by writing, "She delivers the daily load of fibs and evasions in a flat, emotionless voice and, if questioned, keeps her cool, repeats her fallacious statements and sneers …." However, he also said that because Donald Trump has "exhibited a preference for sleek beauties with long legs and stiletto heels to represent his interests and act as his arm candy," Sanders was a refreshing and unexpected choice, describing her as a "slightly chunky soccer mom" ("Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the Right ...").

Right wing media and conservative critics, including Sanders' mother, excoriated Horsey in emails and social media posts. They accused him of body shaming and sexism. He responded by removing the offending part of the article and adding an apology. Horsey also appeared for an apologetic interview with television talk show host Megyn Kelly. He characterized himself as one who is "trying to be a champion and an ally of women" in his work. During the interview, he sketched a caricature of himself with an embarrassed expression and a pencil running through one ear and out the other.

Horsey on Horseback

For a decade, Horsey spent one or two weeks each year volunteering as a ranch hand in Montana near the Saskatchewan border. The lifelong city dweller caught a glimpse of the rugged lifestyle in 2008 when he wrote an article for the P-I about his experience camping and driving cattle with ranchers on a spread owned by Conrad Cox. That semi-retired rodeo cowboy's story inspired Horsey to write a biography about him titled Connie: Lessons from a Life in the Saddle.

When he isn't driving cattle, Horsey lives in Seattle with his wife, Nole Ann Ulery-Horsey. Nole Ann and David met in journalism class at Ingraham High and married in 1977. They have two children, Darielle and Daniel. He is an advisory board member for the University of Washington College of Arts and Sciences and an artist laureate at the Rainier Club.

Of his legacy, Horsey has said: "If I am remembered -- which is hardly guaranteed -- I hope people describe me as a political journalist who specialized in well-rendered images that, at their best, were truly insightful commentaries on the times in which I lived. And I hope they forget all the cartoons that were not quite as good as they could have been because I was too busy enjoying the rest of my very fortunate life."

In addition to the two Pulitzer Prizes he won during his three decades at the Post-Intelligencer, he has received 13 first-place regional awards from the Society of Professional Journalists, two first-place Best of the West Journalism Competition awards, two Global Media Awards from the Population Institute, the National Press Foundation's Berryman Award, the Society of Professional Journalism's Susan Hutchison Bosch Award, and the Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. He has also received honorary doctorate degrees from the University of Kent in England and Seattle University. The University of Washington has named him among its 150 most distinguished graduates of the twentieth century.


"Video: Meet the Seattle Times' Guest Cartoonist, David Horsey," The Seattle Times (; David Horsey, "Dispatch 6: An Elegy to a Unique American World," The Seattle Post Intelligencer (; "David Horsey in conversation with Robbie Conal," Vimeo accessed May 28, 2019 (; "The 1999 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Editorial Cartooning: David Horsey of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer," The Pulitzer Prizes accessed May 28, 2019 (; "The 2003 Pulitzer Prize Winner in Editorial Cartooning: David Horsey of The Seattle Post-Intelligencer," The Pulitzer Prizes accessed May 28, 2019 (; "Conversations at KCTS 9: David Horsey," PBS accessed May 28, 2019 (; Martin Herrema, "University Honorary Degrees for November 2016," University of Kent accessed May 28, 2019 (; David Horsey's LinkedIn Profile, accessed May 28, 2019 (; Peter Kelley, "UW Alum David Horsey Discusses Charlie Hebdo, Editorial Cartooning in Volatile Times," University of Washington accessed May 28, 2019 (; "Pilgrimage 2015 Reflections," University of Washington accessed May 29, 2019 (; Nancy Joseph, "Worth a Thousand Words -- and a Pulitzer," University of Washington accessed May 29, 2019 (; Matt Stevens, "Los Angeles Times Columnist Apologizes for Jab at Sarah Huckabee Sanders," The New York Times accessed May 28, 2019 (; "Sarah Huckabee Sanders is the Right Mouthpiece for a Truth-twisting President," Los Angeles Times accessed May 29, 2019 (; A.J. Katz, "Megyn Kelly Defends Former Fox News Colleagues," TVNewser accessed May 29, 2019 (; Virgil Fassio, Steel City to Emerald City (Seattle: Create Space Independent Publishing Platform, 2017).

Licensing: This essay is licensed under a Creative Commons license that encourages reproduction with attribution. Credit should be given to both and to the author, and sources must be included with any reproduction. Click the icon for more info. Please note that this Creative Commons license applies to text only, and not to images. For more information regarding individual photos or images, please contact the source noted in the image credit.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License
Major Support for Provided By: The State of Washington | Patsy Bullitt Collins | Paul G. Allen Family Foundation | Museum Of History & Industry | 4Culture (King County Lodging Tax Revenue) | City of Seattle | City of Bellevue | City of Tacoma | King County | The Peach Foundation | Microsoft Corporation, Other Public and Private Sponsors and Visitors Like You