Cartoonist Michael de Adder’s contract with four Canadian newspapers was terminated last week after one of his political cartoons lambasting U.S. President Donald Trump went viral on social media.
De Adder, who’d worked for the newspapers’ publisher for 17 years before his dismissal, suggested Sunday that he was let go for being too critical of Trump. But Brunswick News Inc. said earlier in the day that it was “entirely incorrect” to suggest that de Adder’s freelance contract was terminated because of the Trump cartoon.
The illustrator said, however, that “overnight it was like I never worked” for the publisher after the Trump image went viral.
“In the past 2 weeks I drew 3 Trump cartoons. 2 went viral and the third went supernova and a day later I was let go. And not only let go, the cartoons they already had in the can were not used. Overnight it was like I never worked for the paper. Make your own conclusions,” de Adder tweeted.
The third Trump cartoon de Adder referenced depicted the president, golf club in hand, standing over a drowned migrant father and his young child. Trump asks the dead: “Do you mind I play through?”
The cartoon, shared by de Adder on Twitter on June 26, is based off a heart-wrenching photograph captured by Mexican photojournalist Julia Le Duc of 25-year-old Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his 23-month-old daughter Angie Valeria. The pair, who had fled the violence and poverty in their native El Salvador, drowned in the Rio Grande last week while making a desperate bid to enter the United States.
Two days after posting the searing cartoon, de Adder — a native of New Brunswick, Canada — said his contract with Brunswick News Inc. had been terminated.
“My cartoons,” de Adder tweeted, “will no longer appear” in the city’s four local papers — the Telegraph-Journal and its Saint John edition, the Times & Transcript and the Daily Gleaner.
“I’ve got to admit, it hurts pretty bad. I’m a New Brunswicker,” de Adder wrote.
News of de Adder’s termination was met with outrage online. Famous fans including Canadian comedian Mark Critch and “Star Wars” actor Mark Hamill tweeted their support of the cartoonist.
Hamill even called de Adder’s Trump cartoon “Pulitzer Prize-worthy.”
Wes Tyrell, president of the Association of Canadian Cartoonists, said in a Facebook statement that he believed de Adder was terminated by Brunswick News Inc. because Trump is a “taboo subject” for the company and its owner, billionaire businessman James Irving and his family.
The Irvings have international business interests in several industries including oil, forestry and transportation.
“Trade has been an issue since Trump took office, trade that affects the Irvings directly, not to mention a host of other issues,” Tyrell wrote on Saturday.
“Whether the powers that be in America would make the connection between de Adder’s cartoon and Brunswick News Inc doesn’t matter. It seems that the Irvings don’t want to take that chance. So they cut all ties,” Tyrell added.
On Sunday, Brunswick News Inc. issued a statement slamming what it decried as a “false narrative” that had emerged on social media pertaining to its termination of de Adder.
“It is entirely incorrect to suggest Brunswick News Inc. cancelled its freelance contract with [de Adder] due to a cartoon depicting Donald Trump,” the company wrote. “This is a false narrative which has emerged carelessly and recklessly on social media. In fact, BNI was not even offered this cartoon by Mr. de Adder. The decision to bring back reader favourite Greg Perry was made long before this cartoon, and negotiations had been ongoing for weeks.”
De Adder had initially refused to hypothesize on the reason for his dismissal, saying only that “some speculation circulating on social media was hitting it on the nose” in an earlier interview with HuffPost Canada.
Late on Sunday, however, de Adder elaborated on his side of the story on Twitter.
“I will defend myself. And I will talk about why I think I was let go,” the cartoonist wrote, adding that he was sharing his perspective “reluctantly” and was only doing so because “I feel my credibility is on the line.”