Advertisement
  1. News

Inside the Newsroom Non Sequitur cartoon dropped by Tampa Bay Times after artist inserts hidden profane attack of Donald Trump

Artist Wiley Miller said he put the profane words in his comic strip Non Sequitur after President Trump did something to anger him. He intended to take the words out. But claims he forgot.
The Tampa Bay Times has joined other newspapers nationwide in pulling Wiley Miller's comic strip Non Sequitur.
Published Feb. 14

If you saw the comics pages of the Tampa Bay Times last Sunday, you might have caught Wiley Miller's strip Non Sequitur about bears doing Renaissance paintings.

It seemed innocuous enough. Only there was more to it.

Scrawled into the corner of the middle panel were the words "Go F--- yourself Trump."

The words were unmistakable. And the action is indefensible.

As a result, we are dropping the comic strip. At last count, at least two dozen other newspapers are, too. Among them: the Dallas Morning News, the Chicago Tribune, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the Sun-Sentinel and the Sarasota Herald-Tribune. More than 700 newspapers had been featuring the daily comic strip, which Miller has been drawing for 27 years.

Miller has apologized. The syndicate that distributes his work has fallen on its sword. But this transgression can't be forgiven. It was a juvenile act that showed horrifyingly bad judgment. We're sorry it made it into print.

At the Times, we had no advance notice of this offensive language. That fact you may argue shows a failing in our own internal process, which we will now be forced to review.

In recent years, we have relied on the syndicates that distribute our comics to edit them for tone, taste, grammar and style. They do a fine job of it. Usually. We haven't had the bandwidth to edit the strips ourselves. Candidly, even if we had reviewed Miller's Sunday strip, there's a chance we might have missed it. The message was meant to be obscured. I didn't see it until it was pointed out to me after it ran. Another senior editor didn't either. Miller did not alert his editor to its presence.

A handful of our eagle-eyed readers did encounter the words and were understandably disturbed.

"I would like to express my serious disappointment that you chose to publish a cartoon on Sunday that was profane and deeply offensive to me," wrote one Times reader. "How can you offer to contribute the newspaper to children in schools with this poor decision making on content. If you wish to make a political statement, make it on the opinion page, which we can ignore. It does not belong in the cartoons."

Actually, it doesn't belong anywhere.

Miller, the creator of Non Sequitur, explained in a statement that he had drawn the comic strip weeks in advance. He just forgot about it when he turned it in to his editors, he said.

"I now remember that I was particularly aggravated that day about something the president had done or said, and so I lashed out in a rather sophomoric manner as instant therapy," Miller said. "I meant to white it out before submitting it." And yet last weekend he Tweeted that he had left an "Easter egg" for his fans to find. That didn't sound much like regret.

He also said that he has never done anything like this before and never will do anything like it again.

Fine. But an error in judgment this egregious doesn't earn a second chance.

Because our comics are printed well in advance, we are unable to remove the comic strip until Monday. On a temporary basis, we will be running the reboot of the classic strip Nancy until we figure out a permanent replacement. I like the new Nancy. The original strip was created in 1922. The reboot was launched in 2018 and places the 8-year-old main character in today's world. It's one of the few comic strips drawn by a woman with a female protagonist.

We welcome suggestions from you about how to move forward with a new permanent comic strip worthy of our readers. You can send ideas directly to me.

Mark Katches is the executive editor. He can be reached at mkatches@tampabay.com

ALSO IN THIS SECTION

  1. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    Booked on Friday on probation violation charges, 61-year-old Gerald Souders died on Saturday.
  2. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    Troopers say the 28-year-old driver was involved in two minor accidents before causing the crash that killed a Largo man.
  3. Move over, Honeycrisp: New apple to debut at grocery stores
  4. Check tampabay.com for the latest breaking news and updates. Tampa Bay Times
    University police say a 25-year-old grad student enrolled at the University of Florida fell to her death Friday afternoon from near the top of the 8-story parking facility.
  5. Hillsborough County Sheriff Chad Chronister [CHRIS URSO | Times]
    Yes, that’s an "R" next to his name on the ballot. But if you dig deeper, Sue Carlton asks, does the sheriff bleed blue? And a follow-up: Does it matter?
  6. The projected path of Nestor National Hurricane Center
    Nestor is expected to dump two to four inches of rain in Tampa Bay, along with the threat of tornadoes.
  7. Fin is Pinellas County's Pet of the Week. Friends of Strays Animal Shelter
    The 4-year-old mixed breed is available for adoption at Friends of Strays Animal Shelter
  8. A semi-trailer truck fell onto an SUV on Interstate 4 on Friday night after a reported tornado touched down and crossed the highway near Lakeland. No one was injured. LUIS SANTANA  |  Times
    A tornado caused damage and power loss but no injuries in Pinellas County. In Polk County, I-4 drivers were fortunate no one was injured when another tornado crosses the interstate.
Advertisement
Advertisement
Advertisement