Within hours after an anti-Trump cartoon proved popular on social media, its creator, Michael de Adder, was released from his freelance contract with a Canadian newspaper group.
The timing of the news — which de Adder shared on his Facebook and Twitter accounts over the weekend — raised eyebrows within the editorial cartooning community. But Brunswick News said Sunday in a statement that its cancellation of de Adder’s contract was not because of the President Trump cartoon, but rather follows weeks of “negotiations” over bringing back another cartoonist, “reader favourite” Greg Perry.
“It is entirely incorrect” to attribute the decision to de Adder’s viral immigration cartoon, said Brunswick News, calling that a “false narrative” that spread “carelessly and recklessly on social media.”
In the viral cartoon, which de Adder tweeted last Wednesday, Trump has pulled his golf cart up to two drowned bodies and asks, “Do you mind if I play through?” His image references the widely circulated photo of father Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and daughter Angie Valeria, who died crossing the Rio Grande from Mexico to Texas. The cartoon gained popularity after such celebrities as George Takei and Mark Hamill noted it on social media.
De Adder told The Washington Post in an interview Monday that he received a call from his editor late last week to inform the cartoonist that his contract had been canceled. He said that he was not given a reason for the cancellation, and that he doesn’t believe it was a coincidence.
“I was in the middle of a supernova moment and it lasted till the next morning,” de Adder said of the span between the cartoon going viral and his contract being ended. “It was the highest of highs for 24 hours and then I get a phone call: ‘I’m sorry, we’re letting you go.’ "
“I had a good relationship with my editors just four days previous,” de Adder said. “I had supplied my cartoons and there were no issues. I replaced [spiked] cartoons whenever they wanted. . . . So what normal human being wouldn’t think [the timing] was more than a coincidence?”
Wes Tyrell, president of the Association of Canadian Cartoonists, also told The Post on Sunday that the timing seemed intentional. “He’s done hundreds of Trump cartoons,” Tyrell said, “but none has run in these [Brunswick] papers” that represent de Adder’s home province, where he still has family, the cartoonist tweeted.
“The only subject I was told that was taboo was Trump,” de Adder told The Post, in characterizing his working relationship with Brunswick News editors.
De Adder, who is based in Halifax and grew up in New Brunswick, announced Brunswick News’s decision on Twitter on Friday. The company noted in its statement that it was “not even offered” the immigration cartoon.
De Adder’s work prominently appears in Toronto and Halifax newspapers, Tyrell noted. His freelance cartoons will stop appearing in several key papers owned by Brunswick News, to which he had contributed for 17 years.
His long history with the company is one of the reasons de Adder said he is confused by the company’s decision. The publisher made de Adder its primary cartoonist last year, he said, and “in the 17 years I worked at Brunswick News, there was never a day that my cartoon didn’t appear in one of its papers."
News of de Adder’s canceled contract comes shortly after the New York Times ended its contracts with two political cartoonists, including longtime contributor Patrick Chappatte, whose work appeared in the Times’s international edition. The Times’ announcement followed controversy and an apology from the publisher for an overseas cartoon mocking Trump and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.
Last year, Rob Rogers was fired from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette after a quarter-century at the paper, immediately after editors killed at least 18 of his cartoons and cartoon ideas. All the spiked work was critical of Trump or issues closely connected to his administration.
In April, Rogers was a Pulitzer Prize finalist for editorial cartooning.
De Adder says he will continue working for newspapers in Halifax and Ottawa, as well as the American cartoon outlet Counterpoint, recently created by Rogers, former Houston Chronicle cartoonist Nick Anderson and the Economist/Baltimore Sun cartoonist Kal Kallaugher.
And will he continue creating cartoons that are critical of Trump?
“I’m working on one now,” de Adder said.