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Dilbert creator Scott Adams was a comic-strip star. After racist comments, he says he's lost 80% of his income.

Dilbert comic strip dropped by several media outlets
Several media publishers drop Dilbert comic strip after creator's racist comments 00:18

Dilbert comic strip creator Scott Adams built a career based on his pointed and humorous views on the workplace. When it comes to describing his own current work environment, he summed it up on Sunday in two words: "train wreck." 

Adams, who is White, is facing serious repercussions following recent comments he made on YouTube that were widely denounced as racist, hateful and discriminatory. Among other things, Adams referred to Black people as members of a "hate group" and urged White people "to get the hell away from Black people." Newspapers such the Los Angeles Times and the USA Today network as well as distributor Andrews McMeel Universal announced they would no longer work with the cartoonist or run his strip. 

Adams, who quickly took to YouTube on Sunday to defend himself, disclosed details in the video about the impact of losing business. Adams said he is likely to lose 80% of his income from Dilbert due to the cancellations and expressed uncertainty about his future publishing career, which includes compilations of the comic strip as well as calendars and nonfiction books such as "How to Fail at Almost Everything and Still Win Big."

"The big newspapers are 80% of your income, so the 20% of the newspapers are 80% of the income," Adams said in the video. "The 20% that are the important ones are the urban big city newspapers — they are the ones that are going to cancel first, and they have. 

"Already what has been announced is about 80% of my income," he added.

On Monday, Penguin Random House's business imprint Portfolio said it is dropping plans to publish Adams upcoming book, called "Reframe Your Brain," which had been slated for a September 2023 release date. 

"Portfolio will not be publishing 'Reframe Your Brain' by Scott Adams," a spokesperson said in an email to CBS MoneyWatch, without adding additional comment.

Dramatic fall 

It's a far cry from the height of his popularity several years ago, when Dilbert appeared in 2,000 newspapers and was described by Andrews McMeel as "the most photocopied, pinned-up, downloaded, faxed and emailed comic strip in the world."

In a video posted Sunday, Adams asked his viewers, "How many people are here to look at the train wreck?"

The plunge in fortunes for Adams and his cartoon creation may come as a surprise to many fans of Dilbert characters like Catbert, the evil head of human relations, or the Pointy-Haired Boss. But it's not the first time the comic strip was removed from newspapers, with Lee Enterprises last year dropping the cartoon from almost 80 publications in 2022. 

That came the same year Dilbert introduced its first Black character, an engineer called Dave who said he "identified as White." At the time, Adams was coming under more scrutiny for his critical comments on progressive issues such as the environment, social and corporate governance, and what some saw as evidence of far-right politics.

The latest rejections by media outlets have prompted users on social media to voice their opinion on the matter. "No, the "woke mob" didn't come for racist cartoonist Scott Adams. The marketplace did," tweeted Mark Jacob, a former editor at the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun-Times.

In making the announcements to cut ties with Adams, many publishers said they didn't want to support his views on race. Corporations increasingly are aligning themselves with values and movements that are important to their customer bases, from issues such as Black Lives Matter to climate change. 

"[W]e will never support any commentary rooted in discrimination or hate," Andrews McMeel chairman Hugh Andrews and CEO Andy Sareyan said in a statement on Sunday. "Recent comments by Scott Adams regarding race and race relations do not align with our core values as a company."

In a YouTube video posted on Monday, Adams said he doesn't blame Andrews McMeel for its decision. 

"There was a lot of pressure on the syndication company," he said. "They made a business decision which I don't consider anything like censorship."

Adams added that Andrews McMeel's decision means "There is no syndication vehicle to get Dilbert to customers."

Adams didn't immediately return requests for comment.

Bringing Dilbert to new platforms?

With almost 900,000 Twitter followers, Adams has plenty of fans. The cartoonist hinted that he might take Dilbert to other platforms, such as a subscription service. Among his apparent supporters is Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and owner of Twitter, who responded to a Twitter post on Adams by replying that "The media is racist." 

"This was all predictable"

For his part, Adams doubled down on his comments on Sunday, saying he was only giving "life advice" and asserting that many people agree with him. 

The backlash arose following comments on an earlier episode of "Real Coffee with Scott Adams," when the artist flagged a Rasmussen Reports survey that had asked whether people agreed with the statement "It's OK to be white" — a phrase that has been used and promoted by some white supremacists. Adams noted that 26% of Black respondents disagreed and others weren't sure. 

Adams repeatedly referred to people who are Black as members of a "hate group" or a "racist hate group" and said he would no longer "help Black Americans."

On Sunday, Adams said he had expected a negative response to his comments. "This was all predictable, and I knew it when I said it and I was OK with it," he added.

—With reporting by the Associated Press.

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