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Newspapers drop ‘Dilbert’ after creator’s racist rant
Gazette among hundreds of papers that will pull the strip
Feb. 26, 2023 8:43 am, Updated: Feb. 26, 2023 4:24 pm
The Gazette is among the newspapers across the United States that will pull Scott Adams's long-running "Dilbert" comic strip after the cartoonist called Black Americans a "hate group" and said white people should "get the hell away from" them.
Hundreds of newspapers — including the USA Today network, the Washington Post and the Cleveland Plain Dealer and the San Antonio Express-News — announced this weekend they would stop publishing "Dilbert" after the 65-year-old cartoonist's racist rant Wednesday on YouTube.
Asked how many newspapers still carry the strip, a workplace satire Adams created in 1989, he told the Post: "By Monday, around zero."
The once widely celebrated cartoonist, who has been entertaining extreme-right ideologies and conspiracy theories for several years, was upset by a Rasmussen poll that found a thin majority of Black Americans agreed with the statement "It's okay to be white."
"If nearly half of all Blacks are not okay with white people … that's a hate group," Adams asserted on his livestreaming YouTube show. "I don't want to have anything to do with them. And I would say, based on the current way things are going, the best advice I would give to white people is to get the hell away from Black people … because there is no fixing this."
Adams, during the show, also blamed Black people for not "focusing on education" and said, "I'm also really sick of seeing video after video of Black Americans beating up non-Black citizens."
The Gazette, for one, will discontinue “Dilbert” effective Tuesday.
“These comments crossed a line and were hateful and wrong,” said Zack Kucharski, executive editor of The Gazette.
Davenport-based Lee Enterprises, which operates a Des Moines statehouse news bureau with The Gazette, stopped carrying Dilbert last year as part of a revamping of its newspapers.
On Friday, the USA Today Network said it "will no longer publish the ‘Dilbert’ comic due to recent discriminatory comments by its creator." The Gannett-owned chain oversees more than 300 newspapers, including the Des Moines Register, Arizona Republic, Cincinnati Enquirer, Detroit Free Press, Indianapolis Star, Austin American-Statesman and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
Chris Quinn, the vice president of content for Plain Dealer publisher Advance Ohio, wrote that pulling "Dilbert" was "not a difficult decision" for the media organization.
"We are not a home for those who espouse racism," Quinn wrote. "We certainly do not want to provide them with financial support."
Set in a dystopian office where the titular character is tormented by a stupid boss and a talking dog, "Dilbert" appeared in more than 2,000 newspapers at its peak, winning Adams the National Cartoonists Society's esteemed Reuben Award in 1998 and spawning a television show that aired on UPN from 1999 to 2000.
The National Cartoonists Society declined to comment. Andrews McMeel Syndication, the company that syndicates "Dilbert," did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
"Scott Adams is a disgrace," Darrin Bell, creator of "Candorville" and the first Black artist to win the Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, told the Post. "His racism is not even unique among cartoonists."
Bell compared Adams's views to the Jim Crow era and more recent examples of white supremacy, including "millions of angry people trying to redefine the word 'racism' itself."
In fact, Adams did exactly that in a follow up Saturday.
He offered a long defense of his comments, which he said were taken out of context, and seemed to define racism as essentially any political activity. "Any tax code change is racist," he said at one point on his show. He denounced racism against "individuals" and racist laws, but said, "You should absolutely be racist whenever it's to your advantage. Every one of you should be open to making a racist personal career decision."
Adams claimed in June 2020 that the "Dilbert" television show was canceled because he's white. He tweeted in January 2022 that he planned to "self-identify as a Black woman." He has suggested Americans were brainwashed into supporting Ukraine.
On Sunday, Titter and Tesla chief Elon Musk defended Adams in a series of tweets, blasting media organizations for dropping the comic strip. Replying to tweets about the controversy, Musk said it is actually the media that is "racist against whites & Asians." He offered no criticism of Adams's comments.
Because comic pages in newspapers are printed well in advance, newspapers scrambled over the weekend to figure out the logistics of pulling the strip as soon as they could.
It will take some time to identify a long-term replacement for “Dilbert” on the comic pages, though The Gazette likely will let the audience choose a replacement as it has done with other strip replacements in the past, Kucharski said.