“Dilbert” dropped by Chicago Tribune, other papers after creator’s racist comments (updated)

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Comments hateful toward Black people were made on his YouTube show 

[Editor’s Note: This story was updated on February 27 with new information. – T.H.]

The Chicago Tribune – among numerous other newspapers – have pulled the plug on the “Dilbert” comic strip after the creator made racist remarks.

As a result, syndicator Andrews McMeel Universal has severed ties with the strip and it also has been removed from the GoComics website. 

Launched by Scott Adams in 1989, Dilbert took a sarcastic look at office politics in the workplace. A short-lived animated series debuted in 1999, and books featuring the comic strips have sold millions of copies worldwide.

But in recent years, Adams have aligned with far right-wing figures and made offensive statements. At one time, he supported former President Donald Trump.

During a segment on his Real Coffee With Scott Adams YouTube show last week, Adams launched into a racist tirade, labeling Black people as a hate group and said white people should “get away from them” and would no longer “help Black Americans”. Adams referenced a poll taken by a PR group, stating 26 percent of Black respondents disagreed with the statements “It’s OK to be white”.

Adams doubled-down on his stance on Saturday, offering no apologies whatsoever. 

A DVD cover of “Dilbert: The TV Series”, which aired on UPN in 1999 and 2000.

Friday evening, the Cleveland Plain Dealer in a statement announced the paper was dropping the strip. “This is not a difficult decision,” Plain Dealer Editor-in-Chief Chris Quinn wrote. “We are not a home for those who espouse racism. We certainly do not want to provide them with financial support. Until we decide what to replace ‘Dilbert’ with, you’ll likely see a gray box where it has been appearing.” Quinn also added: “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.” The Plain Dealer is owned by Advance Local, who is also pulling the strip from its papers. 

Michigan publisher The MLive Media Group quickly followed suit, and was followed Saturday afternoon by the Tribune, Los Angeles Times, Houston Chronicle, Washington Post and hundreds of others. And this comes on top of papers owned by Lee Enterprises dropping his strip a year ago over the introduction of a stereotypical Black character. So far, more than one hundred papers have dropped Dilbert.

This is not the first time a cartoon strip faced controversy. In years past, Doonesbury and The Boondocks were chastized for content issues, with several papers either suspending or dropping the strips. But the creators behind those strips didn’t stir the pot outside of their work.

The animated series debuted in January 1999 on UPN and lasted thirty episodes before its demise in July 2000. Unlike most UPN shows, Dilbert received positive reviews from critics, with Adams either writing or co-writing 23 episodes in the series. But the series mostly wound up at the bottom of the Nielsen ratings. Off- network reruns of the series showed up on Comedy Central after it was canceled.

Twenty years later, Adams claimed on Twitter his show was canceled because his show was “white” and claimed he was “discriminated against” as the network – already known for programming toward Black audiences – was moving more in that direction. A year after Dilbert’s TV show was canceled, UPN’s Salt Lake City affiliate (KJZZ) would use an identical argument to get out of its contract with the network, who merged with The WB to form The CW in 2006.

Dilbert’s implosion brings to mind what happened to Roseanne Barr after she made racist and anti-Semitic comments on Twitter, leading ABC to remove her from the successful revival of Roseanne as the comedy was later retooled as The Conners. In 1968, longtime WIND-AM morning personality Howard Miller was suspended and later fired from his job after comments he made regarding rioting on the West Side after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Miller would resurface on other Chicago radio stations and later landed a TV show.


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