Fired Political Cartoonist Fires Back With New Book, Exhibit

Feb 27, 2019

Cartoonist Rob Rogers’s new book is titled “Enemy of the People: A Cartoonist’s Journey.” On its cover, a caricature of Rogers himself stands in a police lineup while holding a large mug shot of President Donald Trump.  

“You can decide for yourself who the real enemy of the people is,” quips Rogers, in an interview.

In June, Rogers was fired as the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette’s editorial cartoonist, a position he’d held for 24 years. The reason was that under publisher J.R. Block and newly installed editorial director Keith Burris, the paper’s formerly liberal editorial page was turning rightward. And Rogers – whose work has also been published for years in national outlets including The New York Times and Newsweek -- refused to consent to Block and Burris’ demands that he temper his criticism of Trump.

The firing came just a few months after Burris became editorial director. (He’s since been named the PG’s executive director as well.) In that short time, Rogers says, 18 of his cartoons were “spiked” – killed, in newspaper jargon. Rogers’ firing got national attention, as reflected in the contributing essayists in “Enemy of the People,” who include CNN’s Jake Tapper.

As Rogers wryly acknowledges, his spiked cartoons got much more notice after he was fired than they would have had the PG simply run them. One of them depicts Trump laying a Memorial Day wreath on the tomb of “Truth,” “Honor” and “Rule of Law.” Another shows the president’s silhouette on a yellow “caution” sign, as he snatches a migrant child from its fleeing parents. (Rogers' replacement, Steve Kelley, has drawn fire for cartoons critics have called sexist.)

Also included, for context, are several pages of Rogers’ cartoons of presidents dating to 1984.

“I’m just sort of making the point that, listen, I dished it out to everybody – to Reagan in his second term, H.W. [the first President Bush], Clinton, Bush, and Obama,” he says. “The reason I put that in there was to say, ‘Hey, why would this president be any different?’”

The book also features a few long-form comics, including one recounting Rogers’ dismissal by the paper, along with his sketchbooks from the 2016 Democratic and Republican conventions. Another multi-page story humorously asks “what now?” for Rogers himself.

Rogers answers his own question with a selection of his post-PG work: He continues cartooning for syndication, and has started a Patreon page to support his work.

In the meantime, Rogers marks the release of “Enemy of the People” with a book-signing Friday that doubles as the opening of the exhibit “Spiked: The Unpublished Political Cartoons of Rob Rogers.” The show (which premiered in 2018 at George Washington University, in Washington, D.C.) is Downtown at Point Park University’s Center for Media Innovation.

“The reason I’m doing this event and I’m putting out this book is because I think in this day and age that we live in that it’s important, first of all, to support media and journalism in any form that we can, but also to understand the importance of satire, especially with an administration that is maligning any kind of journalism at all,” Rogers says. “And I think it’s important to keep those in power in check and to have an outlet for that. And the fans certainly seem to want it, and so I’m certainly very happy to continue doing it.”

Rogers will sign books at Friday’s event. “Enemy of the People” is currently available only on his Patreon page, but Rogers says it will be in bookstores this summer.

Tickets to the event are here.