The Star Tribune announced Monday night that Mike Thompson, who was hired about six months ago as the full-time editorial cartoonist, has been demoted to a freelance role.
The Star Tribune’s announcement came after Alpha News contacted publisher and CEO Steve Grove, along with HR and communications staff, to ask if Thompson had been fired.
“As the Star Tribune continues to assess the best ways to develop our news organization, we’ve decided to move forward without a full-time editorial cartoonist on staff. We’re grateful to Mike Thompson for his work as a staff cartoonist and look forward to opportunities to publish his work on a freelance basis in the future,” the paper said.
However, Thompson’s tenure at the state’s largest newspaper got off to a rocky start when his debut cartoon was condemned by Democratic legislators as “blatantly racist.”
The cartoon featured a man telling his wife: “Broadcasting the Muslim call to prayer at all hours will make Minneapolis too noisy.”
“What?” the man’s wife replies as the cartoon pans to a group of criminals firing guns.
The cartoon was a commentary on the Minneapolis City Council’s decision to revise the city’s noise ordinance so that the Muslim call to prayer can be broadcast at any time of day.
“We are incredibly disappointed in the recent publication of the Star Tribune Opinion’s new editorial cartoon, Mike Thompson’s ‘It’s a bit noisy in Minneapolis’ feature. While we understand the cartoon was meant to incite conversation about the lack of gun violence prevention our nation has taken, the manner in which it was done is very disturbing and blatantly racist,” a group of Democratic legislators said in a statement on the cartoon.
Grove, who came to the Star Tribune directly from Democratic Gov. Tim Walz’s administration, later apologized for the cartoon, saying it “brought pain to readers and communities who felt targeted and mischaracterized.”
“I appreciated the chance to work daily with the Star Tribune team, but the organization’s needs are changing and so is my role,” Thompson said in the Star Tribune’s message. “I look forward to opportunities to publish illustrated pieces here in the future, which is the kind of reported work that I get the most satisfaction from as a journalist.”
Grove did not respond to several questions from Alpha News about Thompson’s departure. Alpha News has also reached out to the Minnesota Newspaper and Communications Guild’s Star Tribune unit for comment.