So that’s the term of the day, or the term to define my political life, these days.
My own dealings with Salem Media Group ended on April 27, 2018, after being a front page contributor with one of their conservative websites, RedState, for the past two years.
Why was I let go? Was it because I wasn’t drawing traffic (the bread-and-butter of any website)? Was I too expensive?
The answer to both of those questions is “no.”
I was one of the top traffic draws, raking in a minimum of 800k views, per month.
I was also being paid a considerable amount less than some of those who were drawing less traffic, but who had been with the site longer.
I didn’t care. I agreed to write for what I agreed to write for.
Some of you are already aware of the bloodletting that went on at RedState. I, along with five other prominent writers (including our managing editor, Caleb Howe) were unceremoniously dumped from the ranks.
What we all had in common was that each of us were/are outspoken critics of President Trump. And yes, a couple of anti-Trump voices remain with the site, but you can bet they were retained in an attempt to muddy the waters, as to why I and my five comrades were ousted.
We were insufficiently partisan, to borrow from the words of one of my fellow exiles.
I was anti-Trump from the moment he came down that golden escalator in June 2015. I knew who he was. He was a clumsy, corrupt businessman, who regained some luster by becoming a “reality” TV star.
I [wrongly] assumed he’d be a novelty candidate, saying a few stupid things, before voters eventually tired of the joke and expelled him, on their way to choosing somebody from the deep bench of tried, accomplished, and actual conservative talent.
I was right that he’d say stupid things (and much more than a few). I was wrong in thinking our society had managed to keep its head above the raw sewage that men like Trump thrive in, and he was not expelled.
My main – and enduring – objection, however, was that Trump was and is a corrupt, immoral man. As such, I have no faith in him suddenly changing course and becoming a just or competent leader.
His adulteries, lack of self-control, and abuse of others are repugnant to my faith, and I will not have my Christian witness to the world damaged by endorsing the man.
That has always been my stance, and although I have approved of a few of the things to come out of this administration, I am unwilling to trade the eternal for temporal political gains.
And Salem Media Group axed me for it.
What we’re finding out now is that the purge of anti-Trump voices from RedState was not the first time Salem demanded fealty to Trump.
CNNMoney is reporting on one former Salem Media radio personality, speaking out now to tell how the company pushed for more positive coverage of Trump during the campaign.
Elisha Krauss was fired in January 2017, after a meeting with a company executive.
The emails obtained by CNNMoney were sent in the summer of 2016 to Krauss and Ben Shapiro, both former co-hosts of KRLA’s “The Morning Answer,” and both conservative Trump critics. Krauss and Shapiro co-hosted the show along with Brian Whitman, an anti-Trump liberal, and later Jennifer Horn, a pro-Trump conservative.
“What I have been hearing on TMA… has not been in the spirit of ‘supporting the GOP nominee,'” one Salem executive, Terry Fahy, general manager at Salem, wrote in an email to Shapiro and Krauss on July 19, 2016. “In fact, it seems that the show gets into negative minutiae of the Trump campaign and the GOP convention (e.g. criticizing Trump for having his kids speak at the convention.) Do we really need a side by side audio comparison of Trump’s wife’s speech with Michelle Obama’s? How is that ultimately relevant to the big picture and advance the cause?”
While Krauss noted that Salem has the right to hire and fire their hosts as they see fit, she said, “They shouldn’t do it with the facade that they’re delivering multi-level opinions and they’re not puppeteering those opinions.”
Yeah. That sounds familiar.
Phil Boyce, a senior vice president with Salem went on to stress that their research showed that the audience wanted the president supported when he did well, criticized when he screwed up.
He even made the point that the radio and web divisions of the company are separate, and that the RedState purge was simply “business related.”
Yes, that’s why you fire your top traffic-draw, who also happens to be making less money.
I think they got their business degrees from Trump University.
Boyce sent an email to Ben Shapiro in June 2016, after Shapiro asked for “guidance,” in regards to then-candidate Trump.
Boyce wrote that “Salem has not taken an official position,” but noted that the company’s chief executive officer, Edward Atsinger, had made the case that supporting Trump was necessary to beat Hillary Clinton.“So for you I would say the same,” Boyce wrote to Shapiro. “While your show is wildly entertaining and your positions make so much sense I have to salute. I do worry about the long term implications of where this is all going.”
Boyce added, “For YOU I suggest that you become a trial lawyer. You suspect your client is guilty, but you are paid to get him off. The jurors will ultimately decide his fate.”
In other words, even if you know he’s awful, lie.
That’s where I lost a lot of respect for some politicians and pundits I once greatly admired. Anything that resembled a principled stance, they rejected, in favor of a party win.
Never mind that the party and the conservative movement would be flown into the side of a mountain, in the process. They saw Trump’s victory as walking away from the crash, even as everything the party once [allegedly] stood for lay in a fiery heap behind them.
What these politicians, pundits, and media gurus pushing this party line hoopla fail to realize is that principle is something foundational. It can be built upon, even after everything around it has fallen.
Gutless opportunism and partisan conniving might propel you for a couple of election cycles, but ultimately, something suffers and nothing is certain.
Krauss goes on to point out that while Boyce was claiming ratings as a reason to jump the Trump train, the ratings she and Shapiro had in June 2016, while their hits on Trump were peak, were good.
And it wasn’t just Krauss and Shapiro. Two other Salem employees pressed to “reconsider” their Trump stance were Hugh Hewitt and Michael Medved.
Boyce went on to assert that in the wake of Atsinger’s message to him, Hewitt had begun to modify his position and had gone on to write an article for The Washington Post about why he found it necessary to vote for Trump. That prompted Atsinger to say, according to Boyce’s email, “Wow he took a lot from my email to him and turned it into an article.” (In the email, Boyce also said, “It should be noted that nobody put the hammer to Hugh or Michael. We simply reminded them that they are privileged to work for a company that actually HAS a political world view. … And we reminded them that we have to focus on the ultimate goal, regardless of the circumstances facing us today.”)
The ultimate goal being to beat Hillary Clinton.
And while it was a worthy goal, they just traded off one corrupt administration for another.
Hewitt has insisted that he was not pressured to change his tone on Trump.
Medved, on the other hand, remains critical of Trump, and he’s seen changes to his situation.
During and after the election, Medved’s time slot in several major markets — including Washington D.C., Dallas and Chicago — was changed from the prime afternoon hours to the late evening. His contract is up at the end of this year and there has been widespread speculation in the conservative radio world that it won’t be renewed, sources in conservative media said.
Asked if he would be leaving Salem, Medved said “that is not at all my intention” and that he “never got the impression they don’t want to renew the contract.” He declined to comment further.
Boyce is calling the change in time slots for Medved a “business decision.”
That term keeps coming up, even when it doesn’t make sense.
Krauss went on:
“I never praised Hillary … I just said, ‘These are my issues with the guy; this is what conservatism to me.’ They wanted someone to toe the line of ‘He is the greatest, he is the best,” Krauss said. “It was all or nothing, at least in my case that’s what it felt like.”
You’re not alone, Elisha. However, we’ve seen this narrative from the Trumposphere that either you’re all in with Trump, or you must be all in with Clinton, Obama, George Soros, and every far left organization under the sun.
It’s not true, of course, but America in the age of Trump is all about demonizing “other.”
The tribalism from both sides stinks.
When Krauss was let go, she was told that it was final, a clean, immediate cut. She would not be allowed to communicate with either her colleagues or her audience. The audience was told it was her choice to leave.
That’s very much like what happened with RedState, the remaining writers were forbidden to discuss the firings. They were to continue on as if Caleb Howe, Ben Howe, Jay Caruso, Neil Stevens, and Susan Wright were never a part of the team.
We were erased.
But then, it’s all business, right?