News & Politics

Politico’s Matt Wuerker on His Pulitzer-Winning Cartoons

His "more whimsical" submissions brought home the prize this year.

Wuerker in person and illustrated. Photograph by Christopher Leaman, illustration by Wuerker.

Matt Wuerker was a finalist for the 2009 and 2010 Pulitzer Prizes in cartooning. “This year I didn’t think I had a shot,” he says. But the images he submitted brought home the 2012 prize—the first for both Wuerker and Politico, the five-year-old political paper and website. “I was more whimsical than other years,” he says. “I also have an advantage with my front-row seat on the crazy dysfunction of government.”

Wuerker, 55, got that seat when Martin Tolchin, who helped launch Politico, made him one of the first staffers. It was Wuerker’s first newspaper staff job after 25 years freelancing: “I had a lot of oddball skills that came together.”

Wuerker works with Cartoonists Rights Network International, which defends cartoonists around the world who draw fire from governments. “Like Ali Ferzat,” he says, “a respected Syrian cartoonist who aimed his lampoons at Syria’s president, Bashar al-Assad. The regime sent goons to beat him. He’s mended and back at the drawing board. He’s braver than I will ever be. He’s the one who deserves an award.”

This article appears in the June 2012 issue of The Washingtonian.