American cartoonist and author Scott Adams, who is the creator of the extremely popular Dilbert comic strip, has been the center of controversy after making racist remarks during a livestream on his YouTube series on February 22.
In the days since, many organizations have announced they are severing ties with the 65-year-old Adams. That includes newspapers that have stopped running Dilbert and Adams’ publisher, which ended its relationship with the comic.
However, this is far from the first time Adams has been in the spotlight for incendiary statements. So, how did he get here?
Who Is Scott Adams?
According to the official Dilbert website, Adams was born on June 8, 1957, and grew up in Windham, New York. The middle of three children, he was his high school valedictorian. Adams graduated from Hartwick College with a degree in economics and also received a master’s in business administration from the University of California, Berkeley.
Adams worked as a bank teller, computer programmer, commercial lender, budget supervisor, as well as an applications engineer at Pacific Bell. But he rose to prominence with the debut of Dilbert in 1989 and its subsequent success. The comic strip, which provides commentary on corporate work culture, went on to appear in more than 2,000 newspapers around the world. Dilbert has been adapted into books and even an animated television program on UPN, for which Adams was co-executive director and wrote or co-wrote most of the episodes.
In recent years, Adams has become an increasingly vocal proponent of right-wing political talking points and has amassed more than 888,000 followers on Twitter. His YouTube channel, Real Coffee With Scott Adams, has more than 43.5 million views since Adams created it in May 2018. He regularly posts videos and livestreams his show, Coffee with Scott Adams, daily.
What Is the Controversy?
During a YouTube livestream on February 22, Adams began discussing the results of a recent public opinion poll from conservative-leaning Rasmussen Reports. The poll of 1,000 Americans asked respondents to agree or disagree with the statements “It’s OK to be white” and “Black people can be racist, too.”
After citing some of the results, saying that 26 percent of Black respondents disagreed with the first statement and another 21 percent weren’t sure of their answer, Adams called Black people “a hate group.”
“If nearly half of all Blacks are not OK with white people according to this poll—not according to me, according to this poll—that’s a hate group, and I don’t want to have anything to do with them,” Adams added. He then advised white people to “get the hell away.”
“There’s no fixing this,” he continued. “This can’t be fixed.”
What Else Has Scott Adams Said?
This is not the first time Adams has made controversial statements.
In a 2006 blog post, he questioned the accuracy of the death toll during the Holocaust. And according to The Independent, Adams once compared women asking for equal pay to children demanding candy.
During the 2020 presidential campaign, Adams tweeted that if Joe Biden were elected, there would be “a good chance you will be dead within the year” and added that “Republicans will be hunted.”
Adams also compared President Donald Trump to Jesus and the Founding Fathers and defended Trump’s comments about the deadly 2017 Unite the Right Rally in Charlottesville, Virginia. Trump said there were “very fine people” among the white-nationalist protestors and the counterprotesters.
The Dilbert comic strip was already dropped by 77 Lee Enterprises newspapers in September after Adams began including controversial plot lines, according to the Daily Mail. One included a Black character who identifies as white and was asked to also identify as gay.
Following Adams’ rant this past week, multiple newspapers—including The Washington Post, The Los Angeles Times, and The Plain Dealer, among others—announced they would no longer carry the syndicated Dilbert.
Editor Chris Quinn of The Plain Dealer and Cleveland.com said in a letter to readers that the organization would not be a home “for those who espouse racism” and that the decision to drop the comic strip wasn’t difficult. The San Antonio Express-News, a Hearst newspaper, said it would also be dropping the comic strip because of Adams’ “hateful and discriminatory public comments.”
Andrews McMeel Universal, the distributor of Dilbert, announced in a statement on February 26 that it is severing its relationship with Adams, including all areas of business with the strip.
Adams has been active on social media amid the backlash, saying in a tweet on February 27 that his book agent had dropped him and his publisher, Portfolio, has canceled an upcoming book release. He also announced that Dilbert and some of his other works would only be available on his subscription-based site.
On another livestream posted on February 25, Adams lamented that most of his income would disappear and predicted “my reputation for the rest of my life is destroyed.”
The most notable show of support for Adams has come from Twitter CEO and Tesla founder Elon Musk, who responded to the situation with a tweet calling U.S. media racist.
Tyler Piccotti joined the Biography.com staff in 2023, and before that had worked almost eight years as a newspaper reporter and copy editor. He is a graduate of Syracuse University, an avid sports fan, a frequent moviegoer, and trivia buff.