Based on the emails I’ve received from both sides of the issue, it seems I should explain a little bit further our decision to cancel the comic strip Non Sequitur.
For background, the Idaho Press a couple of weeks ago decided to stop publishing the comic strip Non Sequitur because the artist used profanity in the strip that appeared in a Sunday edition of the paper, in our Lazy Sunday section.
Non Sequitur cartoonist Wiley Miller issued a statement, saying he did not intend for the profane scribbling in the cartoon to become public. In the bottom corner of one of the strip’s panels, Miller had scribbled what looks like the words “Go (expletive) yourself Trump.”
Miller tweeted on the day the strip was published, “Some of my sharp-eyed readers have spotted a little Easter egg from Leonardo Bear-Vinci. Can you find it?” suggesting that it was, indeed, intentional.
The bottom line for me is that someone we work with surreptitiously put a swear word in our newspaper, and that is just inexcusable, unforgivable, unacceptable. Period.
We have discussions in the newsroom whether to allow the word “hell” in someone’s quote in a story. We debated about whether to publish the word “s---hole” when President Trump spoke those words about certain countries. Profanity is a serious matter, and we don’t take it lightly. We couldn’t just excuse Miller’s use of it, however difficult it was to spot. Indeed, it escaped the notice of everyone here at the paper.
But at least one reader noticed it and let us know about it after the fact.
As word spread, several other newspapers across the country have similarly canceled the comic strip in their papers.
Personally, I’m sad to see Non Sequitur go. I have fond memories of reading the strip to my two boys when they were little. I always found it funny, clever and high quality. That still doesn’t excuse the use of profanity in the paper.
The other part of this that I’d like to set straight is the political aspect of it. I’ve had emails from readers saying, to the effect, “Thank you for standing up for the president.” No, no, no. Let me disabuse you of that notion definitively. If Miller had written, “Trump is a foul-mouthed, crass blowhard,” we would not have canceled the strip. Similarly, if he had secretly hidden the words “Go (expletive) yourself, Obama,” we’d have canceled the strip. This is not some sort of political statement or attempt to quell political speech. This has everything to do with profanity, plain and simple. Period.
As you can see on any given day on the Opinion page, in columns and letters to the editor, you are more than welcome to criticize the president or Nancy Pelosi, Mitch McConnell or Chuck Schumer.
Just don’t swear when you do it.