Mallard Fillmore, Cartoon Character, Takes on Univ. of Michigan, and Others

He started his career in print journalism; now he's in broadcast. He has incensed liberals and the media, the favorite targets of his attacks. Most recently, he's gotten the University of Michigan steamed for pummeling its admissions policies.

And he quacks. In the funny pages, anyway.

He's Mallard Fillmore, the ducky protagonist of a conservative editorial comic strip by cartoonist Bruce Tinsley. Together, they've ruffled more than a few feathers lately.

"This is Mallard Fillmore, investigating discrimination here at the University of Michigan — where Asian and Caucasian applicants are automatically docked 20 points for their race!" the brazen duck declared late last month.

In fact, Mallard wasn't quite right in his accusation. The University of Michigan doesn't take points away from whites and Asians in its 150-point-scale system, but does add points to applicants from certain other minorities.

Currently the university is embroiled in two federal lawsuits challenging exactly that aspect of its admissions system — brought by two unsuccessful applicants to the university's undergraduate college and one denied admission to its law school.

"Many top universities have a policy of discriminating against not only Caucasian applicants but Asian applicants," said the soft-spoken Tinsley in an interview, rocking his wailing infant daughter. "I think that's just nuts and racist in the worst sense."

Tinsley, who began drawing the comic strip about 10 years ago, is concerned that affirmative action policies will have the opposite effect and end up discriminating against those they're trying to support.

"It affects all of us badly," he said. "The message it's sending is that if you're black, Native American or Hispanic, you must not be able to compete as other people are. To me, it's racist against those very groups it's purporting to help."

A spokeswoman from the University of Michigan, Julie Peterson, declined to comment through her assistant.

But on the university's Web site, it defends its admissions policies in the context of the lawsuits.

The statement says the legal disputes are over the fact that "the University takes race and ethnicity into account as a 'plus' factor among many factors in its admissions process."

"The University's position is that the Constitution and civil rights statutes ... permit it to take race and ethnicity into account in its admissions program in order to achieve the educational benefits of a diverse student body," the statement reads.

The press release claims affirmative action makes education better "because of the current state of segregation and separation along racial lines in America."

Still, Mallard has dug his webbed heels into the ground on the issue and continues to quack those and other conservative messages in the 400 newspapers in which the comic strip is syndicated.

"People out there love Mallard or they hate him, and there's no in-between," said Erin Ketin, a spokeswoman for King Features Syndicate, which distributes the comic strip to newspapers.

"Editors will refuse to run it," she said. "Some people just don't like it and balk at his idea that there is a liberal bias in the media."

Tinsley said he receives numerous e-mail responses to his cartoons, many from fans — and others from enemies.

"I get a lot of hate mail," he said.

President Bill Clinton, Vice President Al Gore and the "liberal media" are among those ridiculed in Tinsley's political satire cartoons — but Ketin said the strip's popularity is growing rapidly.

"I'm trying to do something you don't see in comic strip form, but also bring to light things that aren't presented in mainstream media," Tinsley said. "And I'm trying to make people laugh."

"I hope people look at my cartoons with their defenses up and say, 'Hey, this is just one opinion,'" he added. "What I do is 100 percent opinion."

— Fox News' Steve Brown contributed to this report