Veteran and award-winning cartoonist Rob Rogers was fired from his job at Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. And according to the artist himself, it was his harsh criticism of President Donald Trump that got him kicked to the curb.
On a positive note, however, the dismissal of Rogers based on politics is making him a household name.
Rogers had been the newspaper’s cartoonist since 1993. Up until March, he had a great relationship with the paper. But ever since Keith Burris assumed the position of editorial director in March, things went sour for the artist.
After having six cartoons killed in a row, and 19 cartoons killed in total, Rogers decided to go on vacation.
On Thursday, he announced he had been fired. In a statement, Rogers said the newspaper turned its back on journalism.
“The Post-Gazette’s leadership has veered away from core journalistic values that embrace diverse opinions and public discourse on important issues,” he said. “I fear that today’s unjustified firing of a dissenting voice on the editorial pages will only serve to diminish an opinion section that was once one of America’s best.”
On Twitter, where Rogers first announced he had been let go, his story — and cartoons — went viral. Politicians and even entertainment personalities showed him support.
Sad to report this update: Today, after 25 years as the editorial cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I was fired.— Rob Rogers (@Rob_Rogers) June 14, 2018
I’m so sorry Rob. This current political climate where employers feel invincible and punish all those who speak out against injustice is completely unacceptable.— Eugene Gu, MD (@eugenegu) June 14, 2018
A political cartoonist is having his drawings sidelined for being critical of Trump. Are we ending satire and a critical sense of humor under this growing authoritarian rule? https://t.co/iAy7tRKZoZ— Barbra Streisand (@BarbraStreisand) June 7, 2018
Sad to hear Rob Rogers has been fired as editorial cartoonist. Editorial cartoonists always poke fun/take a satirical swipe at power, be it Trump or anyone else, that is their job and what is expected of them. Silencing cartoonists is censorship. https://t.co/oTG0kJBd6S— CRNI (@CRNetInt) June 14, 2018
Smh. And to what extent? I am very disappointed in the leaders of my work place. I am disappointed and hurt. https://t.co/33Hmd0MY6q— Lacretia Wimbley (@WimbleyJourno) June 14, 2018
#Pittsburgh Mayor @billpeduto, reacting to firing of @Rob_Rogers by @PittsburghPG, says: “This is precisely the time when the constitutionally-protected free press — including critics like Rob Rogers — should be celebrated and supported, and not fired for doing their jobs." https://t.co/4Pe0QvRxTT— Steve Herman (@W7VOA) June 14, 2018
Burris was under scrutiny in January for an editorial in which he stood by Trump’s critical and crass comments regarding immigrants from “s***hole countries.” It was, perhaps, what prompted John Robinson Block, PG Publishing Co. chairman, to make him the editorial director.
Block, a Trump supporter, said in 2013 during a forum on racism that people of color should pull themselves up “by their bootstraps” like in the “old days.” Still, he had never taken issue with Rogers or his work before. As a matter a fact, the artist said he had worked under Block for 25 years without any complaints. But under Burris, something changed.
Post-Gazette’s chief human resources officer, Stephen B. Spolar, told reporters the newspaper couldn’t provide “details about employment matters, but in light of Mr. Rogers’ public comments today, we do want to acknowledge his long service to the newspaper and our community.”
Burris defended Rogers’ firing to the newspaper, saying that he offered the artist a deal to produce two op-ed cartoons each week as well as his weekly strip, but Rogers did not want to adapt.
“Rob’s view was, ‘Take it or leave it,’” Burris said.
“We tried hard to find a middle way, an accommodation to keep him at the paper,” he added, saying later, “For an in-house staff cartoonist, editing is part of it.”
In the end, it appears that Rogers’ decision to stand by his freedom to speak against the president was what pushed his editor to cut him loose. It's a decision that has, so far, made the cartoonist beloved by all. The newspaper, however, is getting nothing but bad publicity in return.
While Trump supporters in the press may try to push critics out, public opinion will push back.
Surely, Rogers will have no trouble finding other news organizations that will love to have his work. But it’s clear that things may get worse for the Post-Gazette, as the public is clearly unhappy of the newspaper’s sudden pro-Trump attitude.
Thumbnail/Banner Credit: Reuters