Insufficiently Partisan: The Drive to Silence Dissenting Conservative Opinions on Trump Isn’t New

Insufficiently Partisan: The Drive to Silence Dissenting Conservative Opinions on Trump Isn’t New May 10, 2018

Insufficiently partisan.

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?”

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?

 

 

 

 

 

 

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  • Beezle, M

    Here’s the thing Susan. This has been going on for a long time and predates Trump. How were ‘non-party line’ opinions in the comments of RS dealt with during the Bush years? Harshly, though maybe not quite the gutter we are in today. Likewise, there was little, if any, difference of opinions voiced on the front page.

    Coming from the so called libertarian wing of the R party, when an opposing (or just different) viewpoint was expressed, the vitriol eventually became intolerable. Especially if it questioned anything related to WoT/Iraq/Afghanistan. Never mind that I (and other like minded commenters) agreed with the majority of positions voiced on RS, we were deemed insufficiently pure and if not outright asked to leave, made to feel as that was the only sane alternative.

    I’m glad that you (and a few others) may finally have seen the light and hope it continues, even if a real conservative is elected.

  • earhartam

    “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.”

    These people are conciously aware Trump is a “bad dude”, but in the name of Party, they kindly ask you to suspend rational disbelief. I think those words should be dropped from large cargo planes to the evangelical leaders who might be saved.

    I wonder if those who continue to sell clown ties for Trump understand how helpful they have been to the Russians? You have to read Mike Hayden’s new book. I wouldn’t say it’s news breaking, but Hayden successfully fills in the gaps.

  • GotMyLoveGlassesOn

    Exactly.

  • JASmius

    Like I said in a comment when you wrote about this at “The Resurgent”, the equivalent thing happened to me a couple of years ago. It’s just one more manifestation of how Trump is “fundamentally transforming” the GOP into a carbon copy of the Democrat Party, while all its corrupted Trumpie acolytes are brainwashed into believing that they’re “fighting” the Left instead of becoming just like them. An aspect of the End Times that I did not anticipate, but in hindsight makes sooooo much sense.

  • IllinoisPatriot

    That Salem appears to have thrown in with the Trump crowd makes a lot of sense.

    Thank you for clarifying what is becoming more and more clear: The few families that own and control our media have no interest in integrity or principles, but seem to be interested only in consolidating more power. There appears to be a concerted effort in media to eliminate or subvert all conservative thought to “republican-party” or (now) “Trumpist conservatism” and to install binary-thinking into the minds of those that uncritically believe what they hear as if “the media said it and the media cannot lie” is the new “It says so on the internet and the internet can’t lie”.

    Now that a few NYC-oriented families control all media, is the stage set for a surreptitious take-over of America ? Has it already happened ?

    This Salem purge looks like something Russia would organize – buy out (or merge) all major media into a handful of like-minded or state-controlled families, then force out any voices that don’t agree with (or raise alarms about) the government take-over of private businesses and government elimination of individual rights.

    Trump is doing his best to destroy the safeguards built into the Constitution by undermining the courts, the press, the Electoral College, and separation of powers. He is getting lauded for his efforts in the press that has changed form critical thinking to unbridled “support when he does good”. For a “Transactional President”, all Trump has to do is occasionally do some minor, meaningless gesture of “good” to wipe out a TREND of corrupt and destructive actions. In this way Trump can destroy whatever he wants and (whenever his poll numbers appear in danger of collapsing), do something to distract the media that can be claimed as “conservative” (remember the media giants like Salem will have redefined “conservatism” to be favorable to this takeover approach) and we’ll hear about how funding PP is “conservative” or about how the budget-busting omnibus will “save our economy”.

  • IllinoisPatriot

    So we have observed (and heard first-hand from Trump tweets) that Trump trusts his own “big brain” over our national-security and intelligence agencies.

    We know that Trump gets most of his information from “the shows” (his own words).

    At least one of those shows is Fox & Friends (Trump’s own words and numerous reports from numerous sources – including Trump’s own tweets).

    We know that Fox & other previously-“conservative” media (now including Salem) will fire anyone that does not toe their ideological line or that criticizes Trump. (They cannot yet make this obvious because they fear the loss of massive segments of their viewing/listening base, but the Purge at RedState on ideological grounds is clear indication that until their numbers start falling drastically, purges of conservative thought will continue.)

    So….

    If Trump gets his information on global events from “the shows” instead of from our Intelligence and national security agencies, and if “the shows” are dedicated to saying nothing but “good things” about Trump, who’s running the country ?

    Trump is locked in a feedback loop where no matter what he says or does will be favorably reported by the Trumpian media or (he thinks) can be discredited as “anti-Trump/Never-Trump if the media has a history of liberal Obama-support, so where does analysis of alternative actions come into play ? Where does anticipation of events / consequences come into play ? Where does proactive activity come into play ? Where does Trump driving an agenda (any agenda) in a consistent manner come into play ? Who IS running the country ?

    Is it any surprise that Jeff Sessions is on “the outs” with Trump and viewed as a “traitor” by Trump and his faithful for not personally defending Trump ? Jeff Sessions appears to be one of the few in DC that is interested in the Rule of Law or protecting our Constitution – both of which just “get in the way” of Trump’s schemes and his feed-back loop. Given the increasingly liberal politics and increasingly one-sided coverage of formerly conservative media, is it any wonder that Trump’s policies are skewing left ? Is it any wonder that the more Trump skews left, the more favorable coverage he gets in the media and the more he skews left ? Is it any wonder that Trump’s defenders increasingly use examples that are skewing more and more left as “proof” of Trump’s conservative bona-fides ? (Why do we no longer hear about E-Verify legislation in the news ? Where did the promise to end birth-right citizenship go that Trump railed about during the campaign ? (I guess it proved unpopular on Fox & Friends, so Trump decided to follow the advice of his “advisors” and drop the idea).

    Who IS running the country ? My personal opinion is that most major policy decisions are made by John Kelley, Jim Mattis and Nikki Haley after Trump is “sent to his room” for “executive time” or put to bed at night, then explained to Trump in monosyllabic terms (or spun to Trump as “winning”) after the action is complete. I think that Mike Pompeo’s move to SecState was at the urging of “the triumvirate” to get another pro-nationalist into SecState before Trump could nominate his Son-in-Law. As to the GOP, I think Mitch is running the show and Trump is just nodding his head trying to appear intelligent enough that he understands the polysyllabic words Mitch uses.

    The purge of conservatives and conservative thinking (especially the conservative thinking and ideals that much of the same rural America that elected Trump believes in and lives by) is 100% consistent with Mitch McConnell’s long-time campaign against conservatives that we saw boil over with the TEA Party and (pre-Trump) House Freedom Caucus under Obama. We saw Mitch’s campaign against conservatives again in Mississippi in 2014 and Trump’s bribe of Mitch by nominating his wife to a cabinet post likely being the result of a pre-election “deal” between Trump and Mitch to have Mitch abstain from criticizing / attacking Trump during the primaries and as a hostage to insure Mitch continues to toe the party line for Trump post-inauguration. I cannot think of another reason why Mitch would be to gung-ho to support pro-Trump candidates during the 2018 midterms and to destroy any challenges to those pro-Trump candidates – even where a (conservative) incumbent is put at risk.

  • GotMyLoveGlassesOn

    Good point.

  • Fred T.

    Great article.

  • Michael West

    WHEN The Trump ERA Implodes Their Purges will sting mightily!

  • Sigh.

    So much wrong with this article…every premise is wrong.

    Let’s start with “insufficiently partisan”.

    The problem with anti-Trumpers like you, Susan, is that you are 100% partisan.

    Trump is anti-Establishment, which means he’s disfavored by the elitist beltway aristocracy that makes up the congenially corrupt two-Party system that’s all but destroyed our little Republic. Both Parties hate him, for good reason; they FEAR him.

    You’ve misread WHY Trump’s supporters are on board with Trumpism, because you’re just too rock-steady partisan. Real thinkers knew what was happening months before the 2016 election; you’ve yet to come to terms with reality. https://uploads.disquscdn.com/images/ea57d80b05867c9711408db0f5919e4df39d214847fc8de2f97f450d3330d047.jpg

  • GotMyLoveGlassesOn

    LOL!

  • Ben Townes

    Freedum is obedience.

    Liburty is conformity.

    Benghazi remains our greatest threat.

    Fat Tony’s Original Constitution dictates that Amerika was founded for two reasons: 1. To serve Bibi Land; and, 2. To enhance shareholders’ returns on investment.

    Duh Donald is Duh Leader sent by Gawd – and college football.

    Guns are needed everywhere – except at Boss LaPierre’s NRA Convention.

  • Giauz Ragnarock

    What does that mean, “carbon copy of the Democrat Party”? None of the actions they have taken are a way to run an ethical society, which Democrats (of the modern day, anyway) tend to hue toward. I do fully agree that they have had plenty of corruption scandals that also earn them my ire.

  • Giauz Ragnarock

    The media is not the problem. Media that is free and not just sycophants for our government is necessary for a free and secure society. What is a major problem is peoples’ complacence regarding use of multiple reputable sources and doing fact checking. Another big problem is cognitive dissonance as seen when people shout a Nazi slogan at pictures of tweets, quotes, and videos of their Leader(s) knoting their own nooses.

  • Giauz Ragnarock

    We definitely have NO good reason to fear loons and slash and burn robber barrons and the frequent pop-ups of Trump supporters praising the Nazis:

    https://www.mediaite.com/online/watch-policy-advisor-for-trump-tied-america-first-group-praises-nazis/

    /s

  • Karen Tanner

    It’s not just business. It appears as if Salem Media made a good business decision. I don’t follow the amount of “clicks” for the main RS site. But, I DO record the number of Facebook “likes” and “follows” for RS. For the first time in over a year — RS has stopped the hemorrhaging (losing thousands of Facebook readers). Now, finally Salem Media has seen a halt of declining numbers (on Facebook) and has actually seen a significant gain of “Followers” and “Likes.” Yes, during the week following the “purge” RS lost a couple of hundred Uber-NeverTrump crybabies. But by the 2nd week — that trend reversed itself bigly. Now, day after day – we see RS gaining on Facebook, instead of that constant decline that was going on. You see, Crazy Susan and other NeverTrumper idiots were bringing the site down overall. The good people who had abandoned RS on Facebook because of the tripe put out by NeverTrumpTards are coming back. Please remember … there are 63 million of us. How many are in your corner? Crazy Susan, no one cares how many “clicks” you may have brought before because now we are moving forward without the incessant stink you and the others brought to the site. Crazy Susan, the main reason folks clicked on your stories was to see just how much more whackadoodle you would be in comparison to your last vile screed. It was like rubber-necking at a horrible accident. Again, the Facebook numbers for RS are UP and steadily climbing for the first time in a long time. The mob used to say that “It’s not personal … it’s business.” But, in this case – it’s BOTH!

  • IllinoisPatriot

    If we had a free press, I would agree with you, but our press is controlled or owned outright by about 5 families (all living in NYC IIRC). All leaning left (Except the Mercers that now appear to be politically aligned with the Trumpian left). THIS is the problem.

    Our media can no longer be trusted to tell us all the stories out there or to tell both sides of a story. Our media can no longer be trusted to to tell us just the facts so we can do our own analysis without filtering the facts or twisting them to insure that what information we DO get is biased to fit THEIR narrative.

    That – in NO way – gives Trump a license to attack all media, to attempt to shut down media he does not like or insert government as a regulator or censor into the editign processes of our media.

    There are two distinct problems. The worse of the two would be Trump inserting himself as arbiter of what is “true” and what is “fake news” and forcing those choices and that censorship on ALL media.

    The lesser of the two problems is that the media has become so politicized that it is no longer possible to believe their reports at face value – and even 2 or 3 different sources are likely to be controlled by the same family’s umbrella of companies, so even if the same information shows up in multiple places the sources are NOT independent of each other. With the laziness of today’s reporters failing to do basic fact-checking and sanity-checking on what they report, the “news” is more likely than not to have been “prepared” for the reporters by some PR agent hired by the government offices they are “reporting” on that the “journ-o-lists’ receive at their press “briefing” an print verbatim. There have even been instances where verbatim language has been used by multiple “major news” organizations in support of Obama (and in support (or defense) of Trump.

    Granted, people don’t question the media reports enough, but fact checking a report centered around WH behavior or non-televised conferences is what journalists are supposedly paid for. Citizens in Nebraska or Illinois cannot drop their jobs and drive to DC to fact-check everything first-hand and are not being given the facts to make their own judgement as the news often withholds facts they consider “inconvenient” or twists facts they don’t like in their reporting (if they don’t make up the facts out of thin air”.

    Media is very much the problem. (one of them anyway – Trump’s attempts to censor or control the media is an even graver threat).

  • IllinoisPatriot

    No man can serve two masters. I choose Christ over Trump.

  • IllinoisPatriot

    No man can serve two masters.

    Trump cannot serve the American People, Jesus Christ and his own greed/narcissism at the same time. So far Trump has only been serving his own greed and narcissism.

    When he starts serving Jesus Christ, his administration will start making progress toward restoring the country. Not until then.