Cartoonist Rehired After 2-Month Free Speech Battle

Editorial cartoonist Rick Friday has been rehired by the Iowa-based newspaper Farm News, the newspaper that fired him two months ago for tackling corporate greed in the farming industry.

Friday, who had a 21-year long stint with the newspaper, was abruptly fired back in May after undisclosed sponsors cancelled their advertisements with the paper in response to one of Friday’s cartoons. In the cartoon, two farmers criticize major farm industry CEOs and their greedy practices. Due to the loss of sponsorship, the newspaper’s knee-jerk response was to fire Friday, who produced more than 1,000 cartoons for the paper in his career.

Friday didn’t go down without a fight, though, posting his story on Facebook and making arguments about the violation of his right to free speech — a story and argument that went viral on the internet. “When it comes to altering someone’s opinion or someone’s voice for the purpose of wealth, I have a problem with that,” said Friday to KCCI. “It’s our constitutional right to free speech and our constitutional right to free press.”

KCCI, the outlet that broke the original story, now reports that Friday has not only received a formal apology from Farm News for their rash actions, but has been offered his job back, which he took in the form of a year contract. “By me returning, I think that sets an example,” Friday told KCCI. “My once voice of injustice turned out to be it deployed an army of a thousand. Worldwide support.”

Although the reasons for newspaper’s change of heart are unclear and Friday certainly was hesitatant to return in light of the numerous other job offers and commissions he has received since his initial firing, Friday’s return in a broader sense represents a victory of free speech. “I am doing the right thing, because if I wouldn’t have went back, then those people that tried to censor me, they would basically have been successful in what they tried to do in the beginning,” Friday said. “I’m not going to change. I have no need to change.”

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Contributing Editor Caitlin McCabe is an independent comics scholar who loves a good pre-code horror comic and the opportunity to spread her knowledge of the industry to those looking for a great story!