A syndicated cartoonist whose work appears in more than 700 newspapers across the country included an offensive swipe at President Donald Trump in his cartoon on Sunday.
Wiley Miller, the artist behind the cartoon Non Sequitur, wrote “go f— yourself” to Trump in the bottom right-hand corner of the second panel of his cartoon, which encourages readers to color it in themselves. The phrase no longer appears on the cartoon’s Go Comics page. Miller, in a tweet Sunday evening, confirmed the presence of the “Easter egg” and asked his readers if they could “find it.”
“Some of my sharp-eyed readers have spotted a little Easter egg from Leonardo Bear-Vinci. Can you find it?” he tweeted. Responses to his tweet appear to delight in the hidden message.
Some of my sharp-eyed readers have spotted a little Easter egg from Leonardo Bear-Vinci. Can you find it?
— Wiley Miller (@TheWileyMiller) February 10, 2019
Just one newspaper — the Butler Eagle, which covers Butler County, PA — has decided to stop running Miller’s cartoon over the message.
“A reader brought to our attention that one of the syndicated comic strips which appears in the Sunday Butler Eagle may contain a hidden message which was apparently placed there by someone in the creative department of the creator of the comic strip or the syndication which controls it,” Ron Vodenichar, the Eagle’s publisher and general manager, said in a statement published on the paper’s website. “Neither the Butler Eagle nor any other newspaper that includes this strip had an opportunity to remove it even if they had discovered it before distribution.”
“We apologize that such a disgusting trick was perpetuated on the reading public. The Butler Eagle will discontinue that comic immediately,” he added.
There are several different angles to take with this story.
First, one small paper discontinuing a cartoon over an offensive phrase is hardly grounds for concern or celebration by either side of the political spectrum. Second, one could argue this means about 700 papers across the country found nothing offensive or inappropriate in the hidden message (are they all anti-Trump?). Finally, and this follows point number two, perhaps another reading of this decision is that about 700 papers across the country believe in Free Speech.
We might see some more papers drop the cartoonist now that this story has blown up, but my guess is that not many will, since it really has to do with the individual papers’ leadership and readership.
This is not the first newspaper — not even the first one in Pennsylvania — to drop an anti-Trump cartoonist in the Trump era. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette fired its long-time cartoonist, Rob Rogers, after it refused to run some of his anti-Trump cartoons. The Post-Gazette’s editorial director, Keith Burris, who axed the anti-Trump cartoons, said the paper didn’t “suppress” Rogers’ cartoons, but said the cartoonist wouldn’t “collaborate” on his work.
“We never said he should do no more Trump cartoons or do pro-Trump cartoons,” Burris said at the time. “For an in-house staff cartoonist, editing is part of it. Rob’s view was, ‘Take it or leave it.’”
Rogers had been with the Post-Gazette for 25 years.
The full version of the cartoon that caused the Butler Eagle to drop Miller’s cartoon can be viewed here (warning: graphic language)
Here is the image of the Non Sequitur comic strip.
With the oh-so clever Trump insult pic.twitter.com/rlHwKqbHFj
— Fran Warren (@FranWarren) February 11, 2019