First the Trumpkins came for the ‘toonists’ …

I have posted the week in political cartoons on Sundays for many years. One of the “toonists” who regularly appears in our Sunday editorial cartoon lineup is Rob Rogers, the long-time editorial cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. A 1999 Pulitzer Prize finalist, Rogers has won numerous awards for his work, which is syndicated by Universal Press Syndicate.


On Thursday, this talented “toonist” was fired by his new Trumpkin editorial page director at the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Pittsburgh Post-Gazette Cartoonist Fired as Paper Shifts Right:

The firing is the latest controversy involving the newspaper’s editorial pages. In January, The Post-Gazette and its sister paper, The Toledo Blade, published an editorial titled “Reason as Racism” that defended President Trump’s stance on immigration despite his profane description of countries like Haiti or those in Africa when discussing the issue. Mr. Burris, then the editorial page editor of The Blade, was the author of the editorial, which drew condemnation from the Post-Gazette newsroom, some members of the Block family and from outside critics.

In March, the papers’ owner, Block Communications, merged the editorial pages of the two publications, appointing Mr. Burris as editor, vice president and editorial director. He has since written several editorials praising the president, part of a rightward shift by the once-liberal editorial page.

But on the Post-Gazette’s Friday editorial page, a statement attributed to the editorial board professed “gratitude and affection” for Mr. Rogers. “There has never been any intention to silence or suppress Mr. Rogers. Nor would we ever ask him to violate the dictates of his conscience. Rather, we have sought to engage in the necessary journalistic practices of editing, gatekeeping and collaboration.”

* * *

“The firing of Rogers and the absence of his cartoons from the editorial pages is a blow to free expression and to the existence of a free and open marketplace of ideas,” Pat Bagley, president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists, said in a statement.

The New York Times gave Rob Rogers space for an op-ed about his firing. I Was Fired for Making Fun of Trump:

After 25 years as the editorial cartoonist for The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, I was fired on Thursday.

I blame Donald Trump.

Well, sort of.

I should’ve seen it coming. When I had lunch with my new boss a few months ago, he informed me that the paper’s publisher believed that the editorial cartoonist was akin to an editorial writer, and that his views should reflect the philosophy of the newspaper.

That was a new one to me.

I was trained in a tradition in which editorial cartoonists are the live wires of a publication — as one former colleague put it, the “constant irritant.” Our job is to provoke readers in a way words alone can’t. Cartoonists are not illustrators for a publisher’s politics.

When I was hired in 1993, The Post-Gazette was the liberal newspaper in town, but it always prided itself on being a forum for a lot of divergent ideas. The change in the paper did not happen overnight. From what I remember, it started in 2010, with the endorsement of the Republican candidate for Pennsylvania governor, which shocked a majority of our readership. The next big moment happened in late 2015, when my longtime boss, the editorial page editor, took a buyout after the publisher indicated that the paper might endorse Mr. Trump. Then, early this year, we published openly racist editorials.

Things really changed for me in March, when management decided that my cartoons about the president were “too angry” and said I was “obsessed with Trump.” This about a president who has declared the free press one of the greatest threats to our country.

Not every idea I have works. Every year, a few of my cartoons get killed. But suddenly, in a three-month period, 19 cartoons or proposals were rejected. Six were spiked in a single week — one after it was already placed on the page, an image depicting a Klansman in a doctor’s office asking: “Could it be the Ambien?”

After so many years of punch lines and caricatures, skewering mayors and mullahs, the new regime at The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette decided that The Donald trumped satire when it came to its editorial pages.

This has been my dream job. It makes the experience of buying a coffee or checking out at a grocery store a thrill. I go to pay and the person looks at my credit card, sees my name, asks me if I’m the Rob Rogers and then tells me about a particular cartoon he or she loved. The outpouring of support I have received in recent days from the people of this city, including its mayor, has been overwhelming and uplifting.

The paper may have taken an eraser to my cartoons. But I plan to be at my drawing table every day of this presidency.

Rogers said his work would continue to appear in syndication and on social media. He also has plans for other projects.

Ann Telnaes, a “toonist” for the Washington Post alongside her fellow “toonist” Tom Toles, and a past president of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists writes, An American editorial cartoonist has been fired for skewering Trump. He likely won’t be the last. (excerpt):

[W]ith the firing of Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cartoonist Rob Rogers, we now see that suppressing a free press can be accomplished without an authoritarian president’s orders. Michael Cohen isn’t the only “fixer” Trump has at his disposal.

Rogers has been the editorial cartoonist for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette for more than 25 years. Most working cartoonists have had an occasional idea spiked by his or her editor. But in the past few weeks, editorial director Keith Burris and publisher John Robinson Block have refused to publish six of Rogers’s cartoons, all criticizing Trump or his policies. Block and Burris have also rejected many of Rogers’s rough sketch ideas for several months.

This wasn’t the first time Block has used his position to defend President Trump’s actions; in January he demanded an editorial run in the Post-Gazette and the Toledo Blade (where he is also the publisher) supporting Trump’s use of the term “shithole countries.”

I realize now I didn’t recognize this other danger of an authoritarian president: his enablers and the willing supporters who squash dissent and help attack the free press and subvert the Constitution. The fact that Trump will use any opportunity to spread lies and whip up hatred toward journalists only enables his powerful supporters in the media to do his dirty work for him.

In April, another disturbing example of journalistic manipulation was exposed when a video surfaced showing news anchors from 45 Sinclair-owned stations reciting word for word the same script criticizing the mainstream media and spouting the “fake news” accusations that Trump uses in his diatribes. While Trump used the opportunity to blast its critics and offer his support for the “superior” Sinclair Broadcasting, he hadn’t orchestrated this abuse of journalistic integrity. He didn’t have to; there were others willing to do it for him.

Through satire, humor and pointed caricatures, editorial cartoonists criticize leaders and governments that are behaving badly. The purpose of an editorial cartoonist is to hold politicians and powerful institutions accountable — and we all know how little President Trump thinks he, his family or his sycophants should be held accountable. Rogers was the first American editorial cartoonist to lose his job as a result, but he won’t be the last. Trump has many “fixers.”

Tucson’s treasured “toonist,” David Fitzsimmons of the Arizona Daily Star, is frequently the target of conservative hatred in letters to the editor, and in comments sent directly to him by the haters. I have to assume that these conservative haters are unfamiliar with the extensive amount of charitable works and good will Fitzsimmons does in the Tucson community in addition to his editorial cartoons.

Conservative haters frequently refer to the Daily Star as The Red Star,  even though the Daily Star stopped being a “liberal” newspaper many years ago when Lee Enterprises bought the newspaper and began running  it into the ground. No, these conservative haters hate David Fitzsimmons for his satirical editorial cartoons in the Red Star — and I would add, his frequently funny and sometimes moving columns in the Saturday newspaper. (With the Trumpsters’ full embrace of Vladimir Putin and Russia, this lame Red Star thing is now passé).

I have long feared that the feckless Lee Enterprises might terminate David Fitzsimmons. In fact, “Fitz” caused a bit of a panic among his loyal readership a few years ago when he announced that he was retiring — on April Fool’s Day. Good one Fitz! Always the jokester.

David Fitzimmons addressed the firing of his friend and fellow “toonist” Rob Rogers in a recent column, The travails of a fellow ink slinger silenced for doing his job (excerpt):

At the turn of the last century, America’s press employed thousands of political cartoonists. Today, as our nation slides into the grip of an authoritarian nationalist who despises the press, there are fewer than 40 of us inking truth to power. And as newspapers perish, and news deserts form and well-funded partisan propagandists fill the void, the old school ink slingers, muckrakers and watchdogs continue to shrink in number.

These are perilous times for voices like Rob Rogers; times that moved the American Association of Editorial Cartoonists to issue this statement: “We take this opportunity to remind all editorial page editors that their responsibility is to the readers (among whom in Pittsburgh, Rogers cartoons are wildly popular) and to the open and ongoing search for truth in contending opinions. The editorial pages are a public forum, not a members-only private resort in Florida.”

As the president’s ratings creep up, the lickspittles in Congress line up to kiss Trump’s ring, the right-wing media machine beats its mighty chest and the president’s satirical critics are hammered, I wish the talented Mr. Rogers continued success in spite of the terrible challenges ahead. The same goes for our democratic republic.


Martin Niemöller (1892–1984) was a prominent Protestant pastor who emerged as an outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler and spent the last seven years of Nazi rule in concentration camps.

Niemöller is perhaps best remembered for this quotation:

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.

16 thoughts on “First the Trumpkins came for the ‘toonists’ …”

  1. So here’s something strange. I was looking for a video of a TV ad currently running about Deplorable Martha and the border wall. It’s not her ad some group is running it on her behalf.

    Anyhow, I couldn’t find it but I found this video where some guy was just sentenced to 15 months for threatening to murder McSally.

    He said he was going to “wring her neck” and that “her days are numbered.”

    So I’m thinking that my mother used to say that when she was mad, “Stop that right now or I’ll wring your neck”.

    Was this a serious threat, I wonder. And saying that her that her days are numbered could be referring to her time in office.

    This was out of context of course, these two statements.

    Could this be Deplorable Martha’s excuse for not meeting with constituents? There could be a guy out there who wants to wring her neck?

    • Well, it appears there was more to this than just “wringing her neck”. Moral of the story is don’t call your representative when you’re drunk and/or mad as hell.

      “Steve Martan, 58, told U.S. District Court Judge Cindy K. Jorgenson he had no intention of carrying out the threats, which were played for the courtroom at the sentencing hearing.

      Among the less-graphic threats made in the expletive-laden voicemails, Martan was heard saying he just bought ammunition and warned McSally to “stay indoors.” He also told her to “be careful when you come back to Tucson because we hate you here,” and said he “can’t wait to pull the trigger.”

      The criminal complaint stated Martan told agents he was venting frustrations with McSally’s congressional votes in support of the president of the United States.

      Defense lawyer Walter Goncalves, Jr. said the threats were “uncharacteristic” of Martan. Goncalves described him as a “pacifist” who never owned a gun.

      Martan’s mistake was allowing his anger over McSally’s political choices to be mixed with alcohol, Goncalves said. Since his arrest, he has not consumed any alcohol and he has undergone anger management counseling.”

    • The other night I youtube’d a John Prine video, Summer’s End, gorgeous example of stellar songwriting by an American master, thinking it would be calming after a long day of Trump/Sessions torturing children, only to have that McSally/Schweikert ad come on full volume first, screaming at me that I was in danger from immigrants.

      I’m not.

      Pissed me off to no end, because it was loud and offensive and it keeps popping up.

      Someone needs to tell these idiots that A, you give a gang publicity, because they use that in their recruiting, and B, MS-13 is an American gang that we exported to other countries.

      I remember during the 2016 campaign that I just wanted it to be over, but it never ended, we’re in a loop, with creepy racists like McSally popping up unwanted on our screens.

      God I hate what has happened to the GOP.

      As far as the threat against McSally, remember when Sheriff Joe faked a death threat? Public figures get threats, Obama got millions of them, McSally using one to get sympathy is a pathetic political stunt by a loser.

      • Yeah, I remember Rep Raul Grijalva talking about death threats after Gabrielle Giffords was shot. He said he receives them constantly. And other AZ Democrats in the House at the time said basically the same.

        McSally is afraid of her constituents which is interesting given her balls of steel public persona that she tries to project. But like everything else about her, it’s just bullsh!t.

        • If you want to see death threats for yourself, visit the comments section of any right wing website.

          The number of people who are ready to kill their fellow Americans in a civil war is depressing.

  2. The “they” were the Nazi government not a private businesses that has a write to determine its editorial positions. Big difference.

    • You whine about “fake news” and the left suppressing conservative views, but it’s okay for conservatives to suppress liberal views.

      You lack consistency, and this is why you really need to start thinking things through more.

      • Well, being a troll is challenging when there are regular commenters who remember what has been said previously. Trolling is mostly a reaction in search of an opposing reaction and consistency is at a higher level.

        This is why when I troll, I’m a silent troll. Facebook fights are just too stupid and higher level trolling on blogs is too much like hard work.

        Sen JK just isn’t willing to do the work, but loves being a troll. Weird.

        • YouTube/Twitter/FaceBook/the internet in general are the conservatives arch enemies.

          You cannot find a tweet from Trump where he didn’t Tweet the exact opposite thing three years ago, or watch Hannity tonight making up garbage that contradicts the exact same thing he said five years ago.

          Conservatives have short memories, the internet is forever.

          State Senator John Kavavangh’s problem is that he doesn’t think ahead, or consider the implications of what he’s saying.

          Lately, he’s dismissed anyone using their education or military service in their campaign bios, while using his education and LEO experience in his own.

          He’s been caught in a double standard, no matter how much weasel talk he uses to cover it up.

          Worst. Troll. Ever.

          • I objected to the use of a picture of a candidate in a white doctor’s coat. Occupational info in a bio is fine or even referencing one’s position, when discussing relevant issues, is ok.

            What your saying about me is a lie. I only criticized the photo and never said anything about bios. What you posted is a lie and is very unethical.

          • Nope, I’m not lying, I’m pointing out that you don’t really think things through.

            You said using the common title “doctor” was tacky, and you mocked the doctor for wearing a doctor’s smock. Fact.

            You asked what serving as a Naval officer on a submarine had to do with running government, literally dismissing her service to her country. Fact.

            Now you’re saying military service or pictures in uniform are only allowed in bio’s. Got it.

            This is why politicians are always accused of using weasel words. What actually happened is you didn’t think things through.

            But I’ll be sure to let Dr. Kelli Ward and veteran Martha McSally know how you feel.

            FYI, you don’t get to make the rules for other candidates ads or bios.

      • News should neither be supressed nor faked. However, here we are talking about editorial content, which is the editor’s place to offer his or her opinions. It is the editor who decides what is put in print. He or she picks the editorial, columns and even letters.

        I have no right to attack the NY Times for having no conservative columnists, the AZ Republic for pitting Montini, Valdez and Roberts against Robb or AzBM for only republishing liberals cartoons. It’s their right. All I can do is unsubscribe or tune out.

        Not a difficult concept to grasp.

        • The New York Times does have conservatives columnists. As usual you are aggressively ignorant of facts and are uninformed in your argument.

          Brooks and Stephens are the two biggest complaints that the left has about the Times. Brooks is racist scum and Stephens is a science denier.

          Here’s a fun fact, they’re both “diversity hires”, because the Times knew the editorial page had a reputation as being left leaning.

          The more you know.

          • Can I assume that you have no good argument against my initial comment, which is why you are going off on secondary attacks? Or would you like to break with history and answer?

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