The day 'Dilbert' disappeared: The controversy over Scott Adams's racist rant explained
Dilbert creator Scott Adams has been predicting his cancellation for some time now, and it has finally come. Days after his controversial YouTube rant, both Dilbert and Adams lost their distributor over the author's racist remarks. The popular comic strip, a staple in publications across the country since 1989, has been pulled from major newspapers effective immediately.
Adams addressed the scandal on Monday's YouTube show Real Coffee With Scott Adams where he claimed media outlets posted his startling comments out of context. Adams said he used "hyperbole" when he called Black people a "hate group" — but didn't take any of the statements back.
Here's why Dilbert essentially disappeared overnight.
What exactly did Scott Adams say?
On Wednesday, Adams discussed a poll from the conservative group Rasmussen Reports that surveyed 1,000 Americans with the question: "Do you agree or disagree with this statement, 'It's OK to be white'?" (The Anti-Defamation League characterizes the phrase "It's OK to be white" as a hate slogan due to its links to to white supremacist websites.) The report found that 72% of the respondents agreed, including 53% who are Black, according to NPR. Adams cited the poll to emphasize his belief that racial tensions in America "can't be fixed."
"If nearly half of all Blacks are not OK with White people … that's a hate group," he declared. "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, who has publicly embraced right-wing ideology in recent years, said he's no longer helping Black Americans.
"It turns out that nearly half of that team doesn't think I'm okay to be white," he continued. "I'm going to back off from being helpful to Black America because it doesn't seem like it pays off... I get called a racist. That's the only outcome. It makes no sense to help Black Americans if you're white. It's over. Don't even think it's worth trying."
Adams encouraged people to "get away."
Hundreds of papers dropped Dilbert amid the fallout
The largest newspaper publisher in the U.S., Gannett Co., said on Friday the USA Today Network would stop 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."
Meanwhile, the editor of the Cleveland Plain Dealer said dropping Dilbert "was not a difficult decision."
"Scott Adams, creator of the Dilbert comic strip, went on a racist rant this week on his Coffee with Scott Adams online video show, and we will no longer carry his comic strip in The Plain Dealer," writes Chris Quinn. "This is not a difficult decision." https://t.co/tF7tN9SrXc
— clevelanddotcom (@clevelanddotcom) February 24, 2023
By Saturday, major newspapers like the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and the Washington Post followed suit.
"Further, in the last nine months The Times has on four occasions printed a rerun of the comic when the new daily strip did not meet our standards," the Los Angeles Times stated in a post announcing its decision.
Adams's career took a hit elsewhere as Penguin Random House announced it will not publish his book Reframe Your Brain, a spokesperson for parent company Portfolio told Yahoo Entertainment.
Dilbert distributor cut ties, which Adams accepts
Dilbert is syndicated by Andrews McMeel Universal and the group announced on Sunday that its working relationship with Adams was over. "We are proud to promote and share many different voices and perspectives. But we will never support any commentary rooted in discrimination or hate," the company, which has handled sales and distribution of the comic strip since 2011, said in a statement.
On Monday, Adams reacted to the news that Dilbert was canceled.
"Now, just to be clear, the syndication company really didn't have any choice," he laughed on his YouTube channel, "because their clients were hopping mad, the other cartoonists were mad, their staff was mad, basically everybody was mad. So they made a business decision which I don't consider anything like censorship or anything like that... they are not cowards. You can blame the newspapers for being a little skittish, but the syndication company didn't have any choice ... so don't give them a hard time."
Did Adams apologize?
So, what's he saying now?
Although Adams claimed the full context of his statements were not accurately portrayed in press articles, he did not walk back any of his statements. Adams said he does not conflate race and class. He said the powerful people who canceled him just proved his whole point.
"It was a bunch of well off white people who do not live around Black people and they decided to cancel me because I thought that what they're doing is a good strategy. So, I agreed with their strategy and they canceled me because nobody wants to ask them where they live or why... the actual thing that people are mad at me about they all agree with," he said on Monday's Real Coffee With Scott Adams.
Adams said his comments last week were "hyperbole."
"This was hyperbole, meaning an exaggeration. When I said Black people were like a hate group... it wasn't because I hated anybody. In fact, hate wasn't even part of the conversation, was it?" he exclaimed. "I was concerned somebody hated me... discrimination was the other thing I was trying to avoid."
Adams said he did not "espouse racism," and simply said people "should try to get away from it, which is apparently racist in itself." He went on to say how he's lost jobs because he's a white male.
"Do you think I would be canceled if I were not white? I know the answer... there's not even a small chance," he spouted, saying his cancelation was "purely racial." Adams claimed he was trying to encourage people not to live near "a population of people that have been primed to have a bad opinion of you."
Adams went on to say he was using the Rasmussen poll as an "introduction to the topic," and even if the numbers portrayed in the study were not accurate, his "point would be the same, but my messaging would probably be better."
Dilbert may be over, but Adams is welcome on Twitter
Elon Musk seems to be Team Adams, which should not come as a surprise. Musk has come to Adams's defense on the social media app in recent days as he said the "media is racist." The Twitter CEO added, "I don't agree with everything Scott says, but Dilbert is legit funny & insightful."
For a *very* long time, US media was racist against non-white people, now they’re racist against whites & Asians.
Same thing happened with elite colleges & high schools in America.
Maybe they can try not being racist.
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 26, 2023
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 26, 2023
I don’t agree with everything Scott says, but Dilbert is legit funny & insightful.
We should stop canceling comedy!
— Elon Musk (@elonmusk) February 27, 2023
Adams is actively tweeting as the drama unfolds.
An obvious question for those who canceled me is do they disagree with my point. So far I have not seen it. I only see disagreement with my use of hyperbole.
— Scott Adams (@ScottAdamsSays) February 27, 2023
This is hardly Adams's first brush with controversy
Last year, Dilbert was canceled in nearly 80 markets as Lee Enterprises stopped printing the comic strip. Although Adams told Fox News he believed it was part "of a larger overhaul," he said some newspapers voiced concerns after receiving complaints about recent content. Adams ruffled feathers by introducing a new character named "Dave," who is Black but identifies as white.
"All of the wokeness and anything that permeated from ESG … so that stuff made its way into the business world, and then it became proper content for Dilbert," Adams explained. "The problem is that people see that even though it's a workplace-related joke, but it's more about how they implement it."
Earlier in 2022, he 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."
Adams, a vocal supporter of former President Donald Trump, has appeared regularly on Alex Jones's Infowars show. He's been slammed for questioning the death toll of the Holocaust. His comments about women, and how men suffer a level of social injustice, made headlines over a decade ago.
"The reality is that women are treated differently by society for exactly the same reason that children and the mentally handicapped are treated differently. It's just easier this way for everyone. You don't argue with a 4-year old about why he shouldn't eat candy for dinner. You don't punch a mentally handicapped guy even if he punches you first. And you don't argue when a women tells you she's only making 80 cents to your dollar. It's the path of least resistance. You save your energy for more important battles," he wrote in a now-deleted post.