Editorial cartoonist Rob Rogers was fired from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette on Thursday after the newspaper refused to print many of his cartoons in recent months. The award-winning cartoonist said editors suppressed his work that was critical of President Donald Trump.
Rogers, who had been a cartoonist for the Post-Gazette since 1993, said the newspaper dismissed nine of his cartoon ideas and withheld 10 finished cartoons from publication since March — whereas for most of his career, only two or three cartoons were killed per year, according to a June 8 Washington Post report.
This shift coincided with the appointment of Keith Burris as editor, vice president, and editorial director of the Post-Gazette. The board of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists recently labeled Burris as a Trump supporter and linked his arrival to the newspaper’s refusal to publish Rogers’ cartoons.
Likewise, Rogers said he believes that his cartoons were dismissed because of how they depicted Trump and other hot-button themes that have recently made headlines.
“While most of the killed cartoons or ideas were [directly] critical of President Trump, there were also some dealing with the NFL kneeling policy, issues of racism and the FBI,” he told the Washington Post.
In an interview with the Columbia Journalism Review, Rogers argued that political cartoonists have a responsibility to take on controversial topics with their work.
“A political cartoonist is meant to be provocative, and is meant to cover people in power and keep those people accountable,” he said. “When I was hired by the Post-Gazette 25 years ago, it was to come up with my own ideas and draw those ideas, not to be an illustrator of someone else’s ideas.”
Rogers announced the news of his firing via Twitter on Thursday afternoon.
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
Burris said that Rogers’ firing resulted from his refusal to collaborate rather than an intent to suppress his viewpoints.
“We never said he should do no more Trump cartoons or do pro-Trump cartoons,” Burris said in a statement that appeared in the Post-Gazzette. “For an in-house staff cartoonist, editing is part of it. Rob’s view was, ‘Take it or leave it.’ ”
In a statement, Rogers said that he believes that his firing will suppress the range of viewpoints available on the opinion section of the Post-Gazette.
“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. I love what I do and will continue to find ways do it and get it out there. The world needs satire now more than ever.”