Political cartoonist Rob Rogers’ victory lap will include an exhibit in Pittsburgh this November

“It’s been exhausting, it really has. Taxing but also energizing.”

Rob Rogers signs a copy of his book, "No Cartoon Left Behind: The Best of Rob Rogers" on June 22 at a First Amendment conference Downtown.

Rob Rogers signs a copy of his book, "No Cartoon Left Behind: The Best of Rob Rogers" on June 22 at a First Amendment conference Downtown.

Lexi Belculfine / The Incline
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For a guy who was just fired, former Pittsburgh Post-Gazette cartoonist Rob Rogers sure is busy.

He has a gallery show in D.C., going on now and coming to Pittsburgh this fall.

He told The Incline he’s working on closing a book deal, but declined to provide further details, calling it premature. He’s launched a Patreon, which already has 877 subscribers.

His work is still appearing in syndication in newspapers across the country. He drew a long-form comic about his firing for The Nib and penned an op-ed for the New York Times.

He’s been on national radio shows and is a fixture on the speaker circuit from the National Press Club in D.C. to the First Amendment conference in Pittsburgh and on to Sante Fe.

One could say that Rogers is winning so much he’s getting tired of it.

One could say this but probably shouldn’t. After all, using a Trumpism to bookend Rogers’ PG career is maybe a weird choice considering he claims it was his criticism of the president that got him fired in the first place. His former superiors disagree.

Regardless of who you believe, Rogers has certainly been active since.

“In some regards I’ve been busier than when I was working full-time,” Rogers told The Incline by phone Tuesday. “And that’s just because all of the media attention and interviews and this exhibit and the freelance projects. It’s good busy, but definitely busy.”

Rogers said he’s pushing himself, hard, for ideological reasons as well as business ones. He described a desire to seize the moment and make the most out of this exposure. He also wants to prove he’s unbowed.

“I know that eventually the attention will fade and I’m trying to, without stressing myself out too much, take advantage of the attention,” he said. “It’s also about my integrity in terms of saying, ‘I am still here and I’m not going to let what the Blocks think about me silence my voice.’”

He said he’s not actively looking for a full-time position right now because “there are no real staff newspaper jobs available,” adding, “The downsizing of newspaper cartoonists has been happening since the ’90s.”

That said, if the right job or newspaper came along, he said he’d certainly consider it. And if it doesn’t, that’d be okay, too.

“… right now I need a little time to breathe and figure out what might be my next thing. I am enjoying the time I have to consider new possibilities.”

‘Spiked: The Unpublished Political Cartoons of Rob Rogers’

In Washington, D.C., the cartoons that Rogers said got him fired are now on display at George Washington University’s Corcoran School of the Arts and Design — a 0.2 mile or one-minute drive from the Oval Office and its current occupant.

Rogers said he was at the gallery on opening night this past Wednesday and calls the location “very surreal.”

“Somebody told me they passed through an entire crowd of protesters outside the White House to get to the opening,” he recalled. “When I’m working [in Pittsburgh] or somewhere else, the distance is very far and you don’t sort of feel that tangible sense … but when you’re there, you really get that sense and you know that he’s very close, this person that the entire exhibit is about, the president is literally two or three blocks away.”

The exhibition titled “Spiked: The Unpublished Political Cartoons of Rob Rogers” showcases 18 works in total — all of them pointed criticisms of the Trump administration and some of which his managers at the Post-Gazette chose not to publish, resulting in a tense and very public showdown that Rogers said culminated in his termination after decades as the paper’s lead cartoonist.

Homecoming

That same show is now headed to Pittsburgh and will include the works currently on display in D.C. and additional ones that aren’t.

Rogers’ significant other, Sylvia Rhor, is incoming director of the University Art Gallery at Pitt. Rogers said Rhor had the idea for a Pitt showcase even before the D.C. gallery reached out. Rhor told The Incline that the show is still very much in the planning stages but that she hopes to open the Rogers exhibit immediately after Thanksgiving and to have it remain open for a month.

“We’re trying to turn the gallery into a discussion space and to frame this within larger issues and discussions about free expression and a free press,” Rhor explained.

It marks a homecoming of sorts for a man whose firing prompted protests in his name here, statements in his defense from national groups like the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists and the Post-Gazette’s own employees. Almost overnight, Rogers had become a cause du jour among free press advocates and the portion of the city who found his firing emblematic of the Post-Gazette editorial department’s rightward trajectory.

Rogers supporters gathered Sunday outside the former Post-Gazette building, Downtown.

Rogers supporters gathered Sunday outside the former Post-Gazette building, Downtown.

Rossilynne Culgan / The Incline

All of this began with Rogers turning to his social media accounts to publish work he said was being kept from publication by Post-Gazette Publisher John R. Block and newly installed editor and vice president of the Post-Gazette, Keith Burris. (Burris is editorial director for the now-merged editorial boards at the Post-Gazette and its sister paper, the Toledo Blade.) The posts gained traction quickly after Rogers said as many as six of his cartoons in a row — many critical of Trump — had been spiked or, as he put it, “killed” by Block and Burris.

An interview with CNN’s Jake Tapper followed and while one cartoon made its way into print in the midst of the fracas, on June 14 Rogers announced on Twitter that he had been summoned by PG attorneys and fired after 25 years with the paper. Burris told the PG in an article about the firing that Rogers had demonstrated an unwillingness to cooperate and compromise.

Unsurprisingly, Rogers said he hasn’t spoken to Burris or Block since being let go, but he said he has heard from former colleagues. It’s likely a number will be in attendance at his Pitt show later this year.

“I think the Pittsburgh show will be interesting from the standpoint that it’s the first public thing I’ve done in Pittsburgh where people are invited since I left the paper,” he said. “Everybody’s been saying we should do an event and this seems like the right event.”

In the meantime, the appearance requests keep coming.

“It’s been exhausting, it really has,” Rogers said. “Taxing but also energizing.”