Canadian cartoonist Michael de Adder loses job after viral Trump cartoon

Michael De Adder

A Canadian cartoonist says he lost his job after his illustration of U.S. President Donald Trump playing golf over the bodies of two drowned migrants went viral.

On Friday, Michael de Adder took to Twitter to announce he had been let go from his contract with several New Brunswick newspapers, just 24 hours after the unpublished illustration went viral.

The political cartoon, which depicts Trump standing over the migrants asking, “Do you mind if I play through,” referenced the real-life viral image of a father and daughter from El Salvador who drowned trying to cross the Rio Grande.

The haunting image became a centrepiece of the U.S. immigration debate last week, leading Adder to reference it in an illustration.

“It was just so quick,” de Adder told CTV National News on Monday. “I had cartoons in the can and they didn’t run any of them. It was like ripping off a Band-Aid and it made no sense to me.”

News of Adder’s firing spread quickly on social media, with other cartoonists jumping to his defence.

Jason Chatfield, a cartoonist and writer for the New Yorker and MAD Magazine, shared Adder’s controversial illustration and news of his firing, prompting outrage from users. 

Chatfield’s tweet was eventually shared by Star Wars actor Mark Hamill who called the cartoon “Pulitzer prize-worthy.”

Adder, noting that he does not wish to engage in a public fight with his former employer, said he was never given a reason for being fired.

“They said they wanted a change and I don’t think the readers of New Brunswick today feel that a change was necessary,” he said.

Adder noted on Twitter that every Trump-related cartoon he submitted over the last year had been rejected by the papers.

In a statement, Brunswick News Inc. denied ever being offered the Trump cartoon and added that the “false narrative” on social media surrounding their staffing decision “emerged carelessly and recklessly.”

“The decision to bring back reader favourite Greg Perry was made long before this cartoon and negotiations had been ongoing for weeks.”

Wes Tyrell, president of the Association of Canadian Cartoonists, told CTV News Channel that the situation between de Adder and Brunswick News is a trend being seen around the globe as political pressures increasingly impact editorial decisions.

“We’re extremely disappointed from an Association perspective,” he said. “We’re seeing this with greater frequency year after year.”

“This situation with Mr. de Adder is particularly difficult because it was for cartoons that were not even run by this paper.”

Tyrell also said the timing of Brunswick News’s statement on their decision to release de Adder has a “bit of an odour to it.”

“It’s very unattractive and we do not like to see it from a cartoonist’s perspective,” he said.

(With files from Ben Cousins)