Union-Tribune drops ‘Non Sequitur’ comic for anti-Trump vulgarity

Union-Tribune note to readers appearing on the comics page on February 15, 2019.
Union-Tribune note to readers appearing on the comics page on February 15, 2019.

Miller won the Reuben Award Outstanding Cartoonist of the Year for his biting satirical strip “Non Sequitur”.

On Friday, the San Diego Union-Tribune reported that “Non Sequitur” would immediately end its run in the daily section and eventually stop appearing on Sundays.

UT joined dozens of other newspapers customers of the Andrews McMeel Syndicate to drop the tape after last Sunday’s installment included a message to President Trump to “fuck him.”

In a note to readers just below “Mallard Fillmore”, UT said it cut off the tape because of an “obscene comment” inserted by Miller.

“We view his actions as a serious breach of trust – both the insertion of a hidden obscene comment and the lack of candor after the fact,” the note reads.

Miller, 67, had tweeted about his “little easter egg”, saying, “Can you find it? He later said in a statement that he intended to remove the vulgar remark before the tape was distributed.

“I can’t remember the last time a comic lost so many customers all at once,” said Michael Cavnawho covers the comics industry for the Washington Post.

Cavna, who previously worked for UT and drew the “Warped” strip, on Tuesday written about cancellations.

Editor-in-chief and publisher Jeff Light made the decision to pull the tape, said UT editor Lora Cicalo.

“Like most people, we learned of the ‘Easter egg’ reference and Miller’s subsequent explanation as news service articles began circulating earlier this week detailing the controversy,” a- she said on Saturday.

With Sunday color comics printed well in advance, “Non Sequitur” will appear that day until at least March 5, she said.

Although UT copy editors previously checked advance copies of the tapes, Cicalo said that was no longer the case.

“We don’t expect anyone to poring over every word on our comic book pages; we don’t have the staff or the time for that,” she said. “Unions will often indicate if there is a matter of taste or controversy that publishers should be aware of.”

UT, which has yet to decide on a replacement tape, chose to remove individual tapes for a single day in the past for “offensive imagery or themes,” she said, ” but I can’t remember a case in which a cartoonist tried to sneak something into a strip that was clearly out of bounds.

A Cartoonist’s Daily Report has a list of newspapers dropping the tape, and Cavna said he spoke with Andrews McMeel on Thursday, after cancellations by the Los Angeles Times and Sacramento Bee.

“The union confirmed to me that the number of customer items dropping NS was ‘close to 50,'” he said.

the Reactions from UT shared drives in a letter to the editor. They ranged from “Bravo” to “NOOOON!”

Kathleen McCord of Encinitas wrote, “I thought you were brave enough to continue this brilliant comic despite being panicked by a tiny, unrecognizable scribble of words.”

But San Diego’s Greg Bryan decried “the hottest language I’ve ever read in an established, family-run newspaper”.

Andrews McMeel did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

But Matthew T. Hall, UT’s editorial and opinion director, tweeted on Friday: “For those wondering: Yes, we dropped Wiley Miller’s comic, ‘Non Sequitur,’ because that he told the president to fuck off. We published this note today, joining other newspapers who also dropped it.

Hall then posted an image of the vulgarity and wrote, “Most people didn’t even notice when the cartoonist added this almost unreadable squiggle in a corner of Sunday’s cartoon. I’m for a second chance, but it’s an unforgivable sin in our business, where fairness is fundamental. This is unacceptable. And it cost him.

In a statement, the union said: “We are sorry to have missed the language in our editing process. If we had discovered it, we would not have distributed the cartoon without it being taken down. We we apologize to the customers and readers of ‘Non Sequitur’ for our oversight.

Updated at 2:35 p.m. on February 16, 2019