‘From hilarious to hurtful and mean’: Newspapers drop ‘Dilbert’ strip over racism

New York: Hundreds of newspapers across the US will stop running the Dilbert comic strip after its creator said on a YouTube livestream that black people were “a hate group” and that white people should “just get the hell away” from them.

The creator, Scott Adams, who was behind the widely syndicated comic strip that mocks office culture, was widely rebuked for his comments by newspapers that had printed his work for years.

The USA Today Network, which publishes more than 200 newspapers, said it would “no longer publish the Dilbert’comic due to the recent discriminatory comments by its creator”.

Scott Adams, creator of Dilbert cartoon.

The Los Angeles Times said it would end publication of the comic strip because of his racist comments. And the editor of The Cleveland Plain Dealer, Chris Quinn, said Adams went on a “racist rant” that had prompted the newspaper to also drop Dilbert.

“This is not a difficult decision,” Quinn said.

Dibert comic strips have long mocked office culture.Credit:Scott Adams

Other newspapers that said they would discontinue the comic strip include The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, The San Antonio Express-News and MLive Media Group, which has eight news publications in Michigan.

Danielle Rhoades Ha, a spokesperson for The New York Times, said, “We have decided to no longer publish the Dilbert comic strip in our international print edition following racist comments by Scott Adams”. The comic appeared only in the international print edition and not in The Times’ US edition or online, she said.

Adams declined to be interviewed and said in a text on Sunday (AEDT) that “everything you need to hear” was on YouTube.

In that show on Saturday, he defended his remarks. He said that he was wrongly being cancelled, that “you should absolutely be racist whenever it’s to your advantage” and that any change in society is a “racist change”, including changing the tax laws.

He also appeared to be reckoning with the rapid fallout, saying that “most of my income will be gone by next week” and that “my reputation for the rest of my life is destroyed”.

Andrews McMeel Syndication, the company that syndicates Dilbert, did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

In the video from Tuesday that led to backlash, Adams, who is white, said he had “started identifying as black” years ago and then brought up a poll by Rasmussen Reports that found that 53 per cent of black Americans agreed with the statement “It’s okay to be white”.

Rasmussen Reports did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment about its data.

Adams said in the video that he took issue with black Americans who were polled and who had not agreed with that statement.

“That’s a hate group, and I don’t want to have anything to do with them,” he said, adding that it “makes no sense to help black Americans if you’re white”.

Quinn, the editor of The Plain Dealer, described the comments as a “staggering string of statements, all but certain to result in the loss of his livelihood”.

“I hate to quote him at all, but I do so to dissuade responses that this is a ‘cancel culture’ decision,” Quinn said.

Adams, who has spent three decades crafting satirical commentary about the workplace for newspapers across America – the strip is also syndicated across the world – has previously faced criticism for his extremist views and online provocations.

In 2019, he used a mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California to advertise an app he created.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that it had stopped carrying Dilbert months ago because of jokes he made about reparations and efforts to diversify the workplace.

“His strip went from being hilarious to being hurtful and mean,” Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, the editor-in-chief of The Chronicle, said. “Very few readers noticed when we killed it, and we only had a handful of complaints.”

Darrin Bell, the first black artist to win a Pulitzer Prize for editorial cartooning, said that despite the cancellations of Dilbert, Adams’ remarks showed a growing tolerance in the United States for racist behaviour.

“Scott Adams is not unique in his disgrace,” Bell said. “His racism is not even unique among cartoonists.”

This article originally appeared in The New York Times.

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