Newspapers across the United States have pulled 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.
On Sunday, Andrews McMeel Universal released a statement saying that the company was “severing our relationship” with Adams — a termination that extends across “all areas of our business” with the cartoonist and “Dilbert.”
The once widely celebrated Adams, who has been entertaining extreme-right ideologies and conspiracy theories for several years, was upset Wednesday by a Rasmussen poll that found a thin majority of Black Americans agreed with the statement “It’s okay to be White” — a phrase sometimes associated with racist memes.
“If nearly half of all Blacks are not okay with White people … that’s a hate group,” Adams said on his live-streaming 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, 65, also blamed Black people for not “focusing on education” during the show and said, “I’m also really sick of seeing video after video of Black Americans beating up non-Black citizens.”
By Thursday, The Post began hearing from readers calling for the strip’s cancellation. On Friday, the USA Today Network said that 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 Arizona Republic, Cincinnati Enquirer, Detroit Free Press, Indianapolis Star, Austin American-Statesman and Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
“In light of Scott Adams’s recent statements promoting segregation, The Washington Post has ceased publication of the Dilbert comic strip,” a spokesperson for the newspaper said Saturday, noting that it was too late to stop the strip from running in some upcoming print editions, including Sunday’s.
Chris Quinn, the vice president of content for Plain Dealer publisher Advance Ohio, wrote in a letter from the editor Friday that pulling “Dilbert” was “not a difficult decision.” “We are not a home for those who espouse racism,” Quinn wrote.
“MLive has zero tolerance for racism,” wrote John Hiner, the vice president of content for MLive Media Group, which oversees eight Michigan-based publications. The San Antonio Express-News wrote: “These statements are offensive to our core values.” The Los Angeles Times noted that it had printed reruns of the comic four times in the past nine months “when the new daily strip did not meet our standards," and would now cease their publication entirely. The New York Times reported Sunday that it had cut the strip from its international print edition, the only place it ran “Dilbert.”
“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 on Saturday. “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 on his YouTube show Saturday. He offered a long, quasi-Socratic 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 in the 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.”
In the same show, Adams suggested that he had done irreparable harm to a once-sterling career.
“Most of my income will be gone by next week,” he told about 3,000 live-stream viewers. “My reputation for the rest of my life is destroyed. You can’t come back from this, am I right? There’s no way you can come back from this.”
Adams did get support from at least one prominent name: Elon Musk, the billionaire owner of Twitter and CEO of Tesla. Musk appeared to defend Adams in a series of tweets Sunday, arguing that it is actually the media that is “racist against whites & Asians.”
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 Reuben Award in 1998 and spawning a television show that aired on UPN from 1999 to 2000.
In a statement released Sunday, the NCS condemned “all forms of racism and discrimination,” adding that “racism has no place in our organization or in the world of cartooning.”
The shift in Adams’s public image was initially intertwined with his praise for Donald Trump in the 2016 presidential election. Since then, he has identified himself with increasingly extremist viewpoints.
In 2019, he apologized to the victims of a mass shooting at the Gilroy Garlic Festival in California for a tweet in which he used the tragedy to advertise an app he created. Adams also claimed in June 2020 that the “Dilbert” television show was canceled because he’s White, adding that it “was the third job I lost for being 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, and praised anti-vaccine advocates last month.
Last May, Adams used “Dilbert” to mock workplace diversity and transgender politics through a new character called Dave the Black Engineer.
“Dilbert” was dropped last year by Lee Enterprises, a media company that runs 77 newspapers in the United States, though that decision appeared to be part of a larger overhaul. The Times Union reported that it and the San Francisco Chronicle stopped publishing “Dilbert” in recent months, after strips that joked about reparations for slavery and inclusive workplaces.
“His strip went from being hilarious to being hurtful and mean,” Emilio Garcia-Ruiz, editor in chief of the Chronicle and a former managing editor at The Post, told the Times Union. “Very few readers noticed when we killed it, and we only had a handful of complaints.”
“Dilbert” nevertheless continued to run in many major publications — at least until this week.
Asked to comment in more detail about his remarks and the mass cancellations, Adams initially declined. He later told The Post in a text message: “Lots of people are angry, but I haven’t seen any disagreement yet, at least not from anyone who saw the context. Some questioned the poll data. That’s fair.”
Will Oremus contributed to this report.
This story has been updated with further comment and context.