‘Dilbert’ newspaper flap brings renewed focus on cartoonist Scott Adams’ many controversies

DAN ROSENSTRAUCH/Contra Costa Times/TNS

“Dilbert” cartoonist Scott Adams’ recent announcement that his popular comic strip exploring the office culture grind was being trimmed out of dozens of newspapers is drawing renewed attention to the 65-year-old creator’s many controversies and sometimes NSFW politics, which have taken on a life of their own over the years.

“Dilbert was cancelled in 77 newspapers this week,” the Windham, New York, native tweeted last week.

The papers said to have cut ties with Dilbert are owned by Lee Enterprises, which reportedly revamped its funny pages in print and did away with numerous comic strips. Adams didn’t address how the move would impact Dilbert’s presence online.

In an interview with Fox News, Adams said he was not told why “Dilbert” was one of the comic strips Lee Enterprises chose to get the old heave-ho, but didn’t rule out the possibility it was politically motivated. He said his objective was to humorously document how office workers deal with rules to promote workplace equity.

“That’s enough to make people think that I must be taking sides politically,” Adams said.

While Adams didn’t indicate that he was a victim of “cancel culture,” that was the conclusion reached by a lot of his fans. Others complained about a non-specific “they” who were responsible for “Dilbert” appearing in fewer papers, while some of Adams’ Twitter followers somehow saw a paper’s decision not to print something as a First Amendment issue.

Critics noted the changes by Lee Enterprises impacted several comic strips with no apparent political undertones and accused right-wingers loyal to “Dilbert” of using his “cancelled” announcement to advance an unrelated agenda.

Lee Enterprises vice president of local news Jason Adrians confirmed to the Daily News that the company’s print publications pulls content from a larger online library that includes more than 500 comics and puzzles from which the publisher has to choose for print.

“That means that our print readers have a reliable slate of excellent comics that range from newer to classic, and our digital readers have an entire library of comics to peruse every day,” he said in a statement.

He apologized to readers who were upset by changes to their local papers, some of whom have complained about shrinking funny pages.

Adams did not return a Daily News request for comment.

The cartoonist has a long history of creating controversies and making provocative comments.

In 2019, following a deadly shooting at a festival in Gilroy, California, Adams took to Twitter to promote his app WhenHub (he later apologized). He has also pondered the accuracy of the Holocaust death toll and suggested that teen boys are driven to violence by a lack of sex.

In 2020, reflecting on the cancellation of the TV adaptation of “Dilbert” decades earlier, he tweeted “I lost my TV show for being white.”

Adams claimed that wasn’t the first time he suspects being white worked against him professionally. He has also joked on Twitter that he was going to “self-identify as a Black woman” so that he’d be considered for the Supreme Court.

In July, he bizarrely tweeted about his teenage stepson’s 2018 death from a Fentanyl overdose.

“When a young male (let’s say 14 to 19) is a danger to himself and others, society gives the supporting family two options: 1. Watch people die. 2. Kill your own son. Those are your only options,” he tweeted. “I chose #1 and watched my stepson die. I was relieved he took no one else with him.”

The website Gizmodo took a dive into Adams’ views and unearthed a few inflammatory items, including a Tuesday comic where a white boss seemingly asks a Black employee who identifies as white if he could also identify as gay to help the company satisfy a quota. A day earlier, one of his comics took a jab at workplace diversity and environmentalism. Climate science has been the butt of several “Dilbert” jokes since the comic launched in 1989.

Adams’ personal politics have run the gamut. Though he blogged in 2016 that he was not a member of a political party, the illustrator expressed admiration for Donald Trump. He’s also described Bill Clinton’s policies as “sensible.” Adams called himself sometimes “left of Bernie Sanders” in a 2017 online Q &A, where he said he follows “the opinion of women” when it comes to abortion right. During that chat, he advocated for free college and health care, but said he doesn’t see a practical way of making those things a reality. The Californian tweeted Friday that Democrats should get serious about his state’s governor Gavin Newsom “if they are playing to win.”

He wrote on his website that he waited six months to get his COVID-19 vaccination, but did not plan to get a booster.

“I didn’t trust the data, the vaccines, or any of the players,” he argued. “But I also didn’t trust the virus.”

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