Rob Rogers, the longtime Pittsburgh Post-Gazette political cartoonist fired last month after the publisher and editorial page director rejected his works criticizing President Donald Trump, tells his own story in his latest sketches.
Rogers begins his new cartoon strip, published Tuesday on the comics site The Nib, with Trump uttering his signature “The Apprentice” catchphrase: “You’re fired!”
“OK... He didn’t actually say that to me... But he might as well have,” Rogers wrote of his firing, which came amid a spate of editorial controversies involving the paper’s pro-Trump publisher, John Robinson Block, and newly installed editorial page director Keith Burris.
In the series of cartoons titled “I Was Fired For Criticizing Trump,” Rogers recounts his long history at the paper with little pushback from his bosses — until the 2016 presidential election, when Block spent time with then-candidate Trump on his campaign plane.
Rogers said earlier that Block’s oversight of his work intensified this year, when Burris took over as Post-Gazette editorial page director. According to Rogers, the paper’s bosses rejected 19 of his cartoons ― about 90 percent of them related to Trump.
“I began to envision the two of them as Master Blaster from ‘Mad Max: Beyond Thunderdome,‘” Rogers wrote in his new comic strip. “My bosses said my cartoons were ‘not funny.’ Maybe they weren’t laughing because they were seeing their own beliefs laid bare on the editorial page.”
Block, explaining the firing, told Politico earlier that Rogers had “become too angry,” and not “clever and funny.” Burris told the Post-Gazette that he had asked Rogers to adjust “the tone and frequency,” and make his work “funnier.”
The Newspaper Guild of Pittsburgh, the union representing the Post-Gazette editorial staff, has been outspoken about Rogers’ firing and other editorial scandals, including an editorial by Burris decrying criticism of Trump’s racism as “McCarthyism,” and Block’s request to remove Trump’s “shithole countries” remarks from an Associated Press article and replace it with the term “vulgar language.”
Following Rogers’ firing last month, the union took out an ad in the paper to affirm staff members’ independence from the editorial page.
Rogers’ cartoons continue to be published in syndication. The unpublished cartoons that preceded his ouster will be featured in an exhibition at the Corcoran School of the Arts & Design in Washington later this month, The Washington Post reported last week. The cartoons will then head back to Pittsburgh for a show at the University of Pittsburgh this fall.