The House

'They would like to forget about him': Michael de Adder on cartooning Trump

Canadian political cartoonist Michael de Adder says people aren't interested in lampooning Donald Trump right now, but the former president won't let them forget him. He says he intends to draw cartoons that are critical of the Biden administration in the U.S. — just as he criticizes both sides in Canada.

Political cartooning is different in a country where democracy is under threat, he says

Political cartoonist Michael de Adder, who is based in Halifax, rose to international prominence in 2019 after several of his drawings attacking Donald Trump went viral. (Mairin Prentiss/CBC)

Michael de Adder says the world is tired of hearing about former U.S. president Donald Trump, even in the form of cartoons lampooning him.

"They would like forget about him. Trump's not going to allow that, but they would like to forget about it," the Canadian political cartoonist told CBC's The House in an interview that aired Saturday.

De Adder rose to international prominence in 2019 after several of his drawings attacking Trump went viral, including a searing image involving a father and daughter who died attempting to cross the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas that year.

Over the course of the Republican president's tenure, de Adder published countless cartoons attacking Trump and his administration, but during the past few months, he's only drawn Trump a handful of times — and the same goes for sitting president Joe Biden.

De Adder released this cartoon on June 26, 2019, of then-president Donald Trump next to the bodies of a father and daughter who died trying to cross the U.S.-Mexico border into Texas. (Michael de Adder)

"The new administration's kind of boring, but I welcome boring right now. Believe it or not, drawing cartoons of Trump was quite stressful," de Adder told host Chris Hall.

"I mean, he was a real endangerment to the U.S. and everybody around him."

The sense of urgency and danger de Adder feels about politics in the United States is the key difference between the work he does on U.S. subjects — he recently signed on to draw editorial cartoons for the Washington Post — and his drawings for an array of Canadian outlets, including the Toronto Star and the Hill Times.

"I don't see in Canada that our democracy is under attack like it is in the United States," he said. Republicans are most often the target of his pencil in the U.S., whereas in Canada, he applies a more even-handed approach.

Recent Canadian cartoons have featured Ontario Premier Doug Ford, Leader of the Opposition Erin O'Toole and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau.

Despite criticisms, many of which he echoes in his cartoons, Canadians more or less agree that the federal government is doing an "average or OK" job at handling the COVID-19 pandemic and managing the country, de Adder said.

The U.S. is "another matter altogether," he said.

"I mean, they just had an attack on their capital. And, you know, you elevate your game when stuff like that is going on."

De Adder said he intends to draw cartoons that are critical of the Biden administration — just as he criticizes both sides in Canada — because that's the job of a political cartoonist. But he said he believes it's a special situation in the U.S. at the moment.

"It's just that one side is so loony ... one side is arguing against facts and the other side's arguing against lies."

As U.S. President Joe Biden passes 100 days in office, political cartoonist Michael de Adder compares covering Biden’s White House to drawing in the Trump era. 7:09

With Trump relatively out of the spotlight south of the border, de Adder has had an opportunity to focus less on the personal and more on policy and the controversial issues of the day.

It's another place where his coverage of Canadian and American issues diverges. In Canada, he said, COVID-19 is the biggest story. But racism and guns are frequent topics in his U.S. work.

The goal is to create the most effective cartoon, de Adder said, and sometimes that means going outside the headlines, especially in Canada.

"Let's face it, constitutional issues aren't exactly dramatic and inspiring."

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