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Distributor, newspapers drop 'Dilbert' comic strip after creator's racist rant

FLE - Scott Adams, creator of the comic strip Dilbert, poses for a portrait with the Dilbert character in his studio in Dublin, Calif., Oct. 26, 2006. Several prominent media publishers across the U.S. are dropping the Dilbert comic strip after Adams, its creator, described people who are Black as members of "a racist hate group" during an online video show.
MARCIO JOSE SANCHEZ
/
AP
FLE - Scott Adams, creator of the comic strip Dilbert, poses for a portrait with the Dilbert character in his studio in Dublin, Calif., Oct. 26, 2006. Several prominent media publishers across the U.S. are dropping the Dilbert comic strip after Adams, its creator, described people who are Black as members of "a racist hate group" during an online video show.

Updated February 27, 2023 at 8:01 PM ET

The distributor of Scott Adams' Dilbert comic strip, Andrews McMeel Universal, announced Sunday it was severing ties with the cartoonist.

This came after Adams urged white people "to get the hell away from Black people" during a racist rant on his online video program last week, during which he labeled Black people a "hate group."

The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times and other newspapers across the country had already announced they would no longer carry the syndicated comic strip.

Adams opens the episode of the online program discussing the presidential bid by Republican multimillionaire entrepreneur Vivek Ramaswamy. Then, 13 minutes into the video, Adams began his screed by citing the results of a recent public opinion poll conducted by the conservative-leaning Rasmussen Reports.

By telephone and online, the group surveyed a thousand American adults, with this question: "Do you agree or disagree with this statement, 'It's OK to be white'?"

The report found that 72% of the respondents agreed, including 53% who are Black. Some 26% of Black respondents disagreed, and 21% said they are "not sure." The poll also found that 79% of all the respondents agreed with the statement "Black people can be racist too."

The statement "It's OK to be white" has been repeated on right-wing websites and in speeches. The Anti-Defamation League has denounced it as a hate chant.

On his YouTube livestream program, Real Coffee with Scott Adams, the cartoonist said the results of that poll demonstrate the country's racial tensions "can't be fixed."

Adams previously claimed he was a victim of racism in Hollywood and corporate America. He was also a vocal supporter of Donald Trump. For three decades, he produced his comic strip Dilbert, which satirizes office culture. According to Andrews McMeel Syndication, Dilbert appeared in 2,000 newspapers in 65 countries and 25 languages.

Adams has made news for other controversial statements, including questioning the accuracy of the Holocaust death toll.

On his video show last week, the 65 year old said he had been identifying as Black "because I like to be on the winning team," and that he used to help the Black community. Adams said the results of the Rasmussen poll changed his mind.

"It turns out that nearly half of that team doesn't think I'm okay to be white," he said, adding that he would re-identify as white. "I'm going to back off from being helpful to Black America because it doesn't seem like it pays off," he said. "I get called a racist. That's the only outcome. It makes no sense to help Black Americans if you're white. It's over. Don't even think it's worth trying."

"I'm not saying start a war or do anything bad," he added. "Nothing like that.
I'm just saying get away. Just get away."

Editor Chris Quinn, of cleveland.com/The Plain Dealer in Cleveland, called Adams' video statement "hateful and racist."

"We are not a home for those who espouse racism," Quinn wrote. "Adams' reprehensible statements come during Black History Month, when The Plain Dealer has been publishing stories about the work being performed by so many to overcome the damage done by racist decisions and policy."

In a letter from the editor, The Oregonian's Therese Bottomly wrote, "Some readers will no doubt deride my decision as an example of 'overly woke' culture or as a knee-jerk politically correct response. What about free speech, they might ask. Isn't this censorship? No one is taking Adams' free speech rights away. He is free to share his abhorrent comments on YouTube and Twitter so long as those companies allow them. This also isn't censorship; it's editing. Editors make decisions every day about what to publish, balancing the need to inform against the possibility of offending reader sensibilities."

This is not the first time Adams' strip has been dropped. Last year, The San Francisco Chronicle and 76 other newspapers published by Lee Enterprises reportedly dropped Dilbert after Adams introduced his first Black character. Quinn noted that the move was "apparently to poke fun at 'woke' culture and the LGBTQ community."

Quinn said other newspapers that are part of Advance Local newsrooms — in Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Massachusetts and Oregon-- made the same decision to stop running the strip.

Adams reacted to the new backlash on Twitter, saying he'd been canceled. Nearly 18 minutes into his YouTube show Saturday, he predicted, "Most of my income will be gone by next week ... My reputation for the rest of my life is destroyed. You can't come back from this, am I right? "

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Mandalit del Barco
As an arts correspondent based at NPR West, Mandalit del Barco reports and produces stories about film, television, music, visual arts, dance and other topics. Over the years, she has also covered everything from street gangs to Hollywood, police and prisons, marijuana, immigration, race relations, natural disasters, Latino arts and urban street culture (including hip hop dance, music, and art). Every year, she covers the Oscars and the Grammy awards for NPR, as well as the Sundance Film Festival and other events. Her news reports, feature stories and photos, filed from Los Angeles and abroad, can be heard on All Things Considered, Morning Edition, Weekend Edition, Alt.latino, and npr.org.