Scott Adams’ long-running “Dilbert” comic strip has been pulled by multiple newspapers after the cartoonist called Black Americans a “hate group” and urged white people to “get the fuck away” from Black people in a YouTube video.
Gannett Co. — the largest newspaper publisher in the U.S. — on Friday said the USA Today Network will cease publishing “Dilbert” immediately. The USA Today Network includes USA Today and more than 300 local media outlets in 43 states. “Recent discriminatory comments by the creator, Scott Adams, have influenced our decision to discontinue publishing his comic,” Gannett said in a statement. “While we respect and encourage free speech, his views do not align with our editorial or business values as an organization.”
The Boston Globe, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post on Saturday were among other publishers that said they were dropping “Dilbert” because of Adams’ racist diatribe.
On Friday, Cleveland’s The Plain Dealer announced that “Dilbert” will no longer be published in the newspaper because of Adams’ “racist rant.” Chris Quinn, VP of content for the Plain Dealer/Cleveland.com, wrote in a note to readers that other papers owned by parent company Advance Local also independently made the same decision to stop running the strip. That includes Advance Local newspapers in Michigan, New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Alabama, Massachusetts and Oregon.
“This is not a difficult decision,” Quinn wrote. “We are not a home for those who espouse racism. We certainly do not want to provide them with financial support.” He added, “Until we decide what to replace ‘Dilbert’ with, you’ll likely see a gray box where it has been appearing.”
On his YouTube show on Wednesday, Feb. 22, Adams claimed that a recent survey found nearly half of Black people do not agree with the statement, “It’s okay to be white.” (The survey, fielded by conservative polling company Rasmussen Reports, found that 26% of Black respondents disagreed with the statement while 21% said they were unsure; 53% of Black people surveyed agreed with the statement.) The Anti-Defamation League has called the phrase “It’s okay to be white” a “hate symbol” that was popularized in late 2017 as a trolling campaign on 4chan.
“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. Just get the fuck away,” Adams said. “Wherever you have to go, just get away. Because there’s no fixing this. This can’t be fixed. So I don’t think it makes any sense as a white citizen of America to try to help Black citizens anymore. It doesn’t make sense. There’s no longer a rational impulse. So I’m going to back off on being helpful to Black America because it doesn’t seem like it pays off.”
Last fall, 77 newspapers owned by publisher Lee Enterprises dropped “Dilbert”; however, that appeared to be part of a broader move by the company to scale back comic strips.
Adams previously has claimed that some of his projects have been canceled because he is white, and he has made numerous racially charged “jokes.” Adams in 2022 introduced the first-ever Black character to “Dilbert,” dubbed Dave the Black Engineer, whom he used to mock the idea of workplace diversity and transgender identity (“I identify as white,” Dave the Black Engineer says in one strip).
In June 2020, Adams, referring to UPN’s cancellation of the “Dilbert” animated primetime TV series two decades earlier, tweeted, “I lost my TV show for being white when UPN decided it would focus on an African American audience. That was the third job I lost for being white.” (The reality was the show’s ratings had plummeted and it was canceled after audiences tuned out.) In January 2022, Adams tweeted, “I’m going to self-identify as a Black woman until Biden picks his Supreme Court nominee. I realize it’s a long shot, but I don’t want to completely take myself out of the conversation for the job.”
“Dilbert” is syndicated by Andrews McMeel Universal (formerly Universal Uclick), which has handled sales and distribution of the comic strip since 2011. The strip is “the most photocopied, pinned-up, downloaded, faxed and e-mailed comic strip in the world,” the company claims on its website.
Adams, 65, grew up a fan of the Peanuts comics and started drawing his own comics at the age of six, according to Andrews McMeel’s bio on the cartoonist. To date, more than 40 “Dilbert” reprint books have been published, with “The Dilbert Principle” becoming a New York Times best-seller. Total “Dilbert” book and calendar sales have topped 20 million units, according to Andrews McMeel.