Cartoonist says he wouldn't change anything about controversial Trump cartoon

Political cartoonist Michael de Adder says he may have gone too far with some of his drawings, but he wouldn't change the depiction of Donald Trump he attributes with him getting fired.

Michael de Adder reflects on Trump cartoon, political memes and his role during the election

Political cartoonist Michael de Adder. (Mairin Prentiss/CBC)

Political cartoonist Michael de Adder says he may have gone too far in the past with some of his drawings — but he wouldn't change anything about the depiction of Donald Trump he believes got him fired.

The illustrator's freelance contract with Brunswick News Inc. was terminated after he shared a viral cartoon depicting the U.S. president playing golf next to the face-down bodies of two Salvadorian migrants. BNI maintains its decision to cut ties with de Adder had nothing to do with the Trump cartoon.

"I wouldn't do that one differently," de Adder said Thursday in an interview with CBC Radio's The House. 

While de Adder has continued to publish work with other media outlets, there's a new emerging threat to his livelihood.

Some experts argue online political memes involving images with text — usually humorous, sometimes not — could largely replace political cartooning in the near future.

De Adder isn't convinced.

"There's no accountability to them … Most of them are crappily done in five minutes and quickly distributed."

Michael de Adder released this cartoon on June 26 of Donald Trump next to the bodies of a father and daughter who died trying to cross the border into Texas. (Michael de Adder)

Lack of transparency and accountability with memes

Jennifer Grygiel, a communications professor at Syracuse University, told The House that the political satire exemplified by cartooning is moving online, and changing as a result.

"The public is consuming vast amounts of social media," she said. "And Instagram, Twitter, you name it, they're not necessarily going to go to a digital publisher's site or even get a newspaper."

Grygiel said the emergence of memes is diversifying political satire, since the people producing traditional political cartoons tend to be older, white men.

But where these memes are coming from isn't always clear.

With cartoons, de Adder said, you know their origin, who drew them — and where you can make a complaint if you hate their message. Not so with memes.

"You can get around everything through a meme, you go straight to the public," he said. "They're more easily corrupted." 

Grygiel agreed that is a drawback.

"We just have to consider where we're getting our information and consider some of this political rhetoric that's being created via the Internet ... and vet that information to make sure that it's not just intending to spread disinformation."

Political cartoonist Michael de Adder says he may have gone too far with some of his drawings, but he wouldn't change the depiction of Donald Trump he attributes with him getting fired.

The Lisa McLeod cartoon controversy

De Adder also responded to criticism of one of his more recent cartoons, which depicted Ontario Tourism Minister Lisa MacLeod — who has been open about her mental health struggles — in a straightjacket, following her recent outburst at Ottawa Senators owner Eugene Melnyk.

"I was unaware that McLeod had mental health issues," he said. "I probably would have tackled that a little differently. I do not set out to cause that kind of controversy."

De Adder said political satire is his passion and while he offers "opinion" in his drawings, he tries to be "fair."

Trump is an easy target, he said, but he also loves drawing Conservative Leader Andrew Scheer and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau because they goof up enough to be "cartoon gold."

He's certain to poke fun at the leaders during the upcoming election campaign, but he said he takes his role quite seriously.

"I actually treat elections very sacred in the sense that I have a responsibility."

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