RedState’s Culling of Trump Critics *UPDATED*
But sources I spoke with were skeptical of that explanation. “I think the ones who were shitcanned—and this is just my opinion—could probably be easily defined as the loudest and most vocal Trump critics,” Ben Howe said.
“There’s a clear pattern that the people who were let go were all critics of Donald Trump,” said Patrick Frey, a lawyer who blogs as Patterico and whose contract was also terminated on Friday.
“It was a complete surprise,” Frey said. “There’d been rumors of contract changes but being fired was a complete surprise.”
Jay Caruso, a former RedState editor, now works for The Dallas Morning News but maintained a contract with the site until Friday morning. “When you look at he names across the board, the people that were let go had a clear bias against President Trump,” he said.
Caleb Howe pointed out that RedState is keeping some Trump-critical writers. But he emphasized that one of those fired was Susan Wright, an anti-Trump writer who, he said, had consistently been one of the highest-trafficked writers on the site. “The most Trump-critical people, the most vocally critical were on the list, especially Susan Wright,” he said. “Susan also happens to be the number one traffic draw at RedState, so it’s sort of weird if it’s a monetary decision.”
“Over the last two years I’ve been working for them, I’ve consistently been one of their top three writers,” Wright told me. “More often than not their top writer … They can’t say it’s a money issue.”
Several RedState writers are pushing back on the earlier reporting by CNN and others:
I'm telling you that we haven't been given any directive. It's a baseless charge.
— Brad Slager – The 7th Infinity Stone???? (@MartiniShark) April 27, 2018
Just want to say this is inaccurate. I am NOT pro-Trump. And I was not fired. Several other writers who were also kept were also Never Trump, or are at least Trump-skeptical.
— Sarah Rumpf (@rumpfshaker) April 27, 2018
Neither Sarah or I have ever been in the tank for Trump, and I doubt we'll start now. https://t.co/Tkb3j5ZH6R
— Brandon Morse (@TheBrandonMorse) April 27, 2018
Thank you everyone for your support. To clarify:
1. I’m still (for now) employed by RedState.
2. If I’m told to forsake principles and bend to Trump, I won’t do it.
3. I hope you continue to read my takes (wherever they are published) in which I try to be fair.
— Kimberly Ross (@SouthernKeeks) April 27, 2018
Original Post Follows unchanged:
RedState.com parted ways with several editors and writers today, but it was the editorial bent of the people let go that is raising eyebrows.
Bloggers were locked out of their accounts — some just temporarily, while the cuts were made, and others permanently.
Erick Erickson, the site’s longtime editor who left in 2015, tweeted about what he called the “mass firing” on Friday morning.
“Very sad to see, but not really surprising given Salem’s direction,” he wrote. “And, finally, after all these years, they’ve turned off my account.”
Multiple sources told CNNMoney that they believed conservative critics of President Trump were the writers targeted for removal.
“Insufficiently partisan” was the phrase one writer used in a RedState group chat.
“They fired everybody who was insufficiently supportive of Trump,” one of the sources who spoke with CNNMoney said, adding, “how do you define being ‘sufficiently supportive’ of Trump?”
But if it was about politics, it was also about money.
RedState writers work on contract and are paid based on the amount of traffic to their posts.
“Those who had been under a contract with a higher per-click rate were mostly all tossed, only keeping those who were pro-Trump even if their traffic was comparable,” another one of the sources said on condition of anonymity.
“Of those who make less under their contracts, they mostly tossed those who had been openly critical of the president,” the source said. “It seems to have been a cost saving measure, but the deciding factor between any two people seems to have been who liked the president and who didn’t.”
Salem had no immediate comment. But an internal memo obtained by CNNMoney confirmed the housecleaning.
Redstate was one of the more visible right-leaning websites that consistently featured writing that was challenging, and often openly critical, of President Trump from conservative/libertarian perspectives. Speculation quickly turned to parent company Salem Media as the source of the change.
RedState, a 13-year-old blog that was founded by Erick Erickson, is one of several sites in Townhall Media’s portfolio. Townhall, in turn, is owned by Salem Media Group, a conservative media company that also operates radio stations and publishes books.
Salem has previously been scrutinized for its treatment of radio hosts who weren’t toeing a pro-Trump line during the presidential campaign.
A source with ties to RedState said bloggers had been “wondering if this was going to happen at RedState,” meaning “anyone who wasn’t a big fan of Trump would be dumped.”
RedState has been reflective of the divides within the GOP and the conservative movement, with a spectrum of writers with varying reactions to Trump’s political choices and personality conflicts.
Salem, like The Atlantic with the Kevin D. Williamson situation, is a private company free to hire and fire as they see fit. Same goes for their editorial content. And some decidedly non-Trump supporting writers remain, at least for now. But the fact is, being pro-Trump in the new right media is big business, much more so than being anti-Trump.
The question now is, what conservative outlets will remain open to criticizing the President, despite the dollars to be made in not doing so? What market, if any, is there for a loyal opposition from the right to the President and his hardcore followers?
Erick Erickson wrote this in The Washington Post back in January, which seems pertinent now with today’s news about his former site:
It is safe to say many of the president’s supporters have concluded that arguments and debates no longer work, so they will take what they can get as quickly as they can before the tide rolls in and washes this administration away.
He was referring to President Trump and his policies, but the same applies to media outlets who have become full-throated supporters of President Trump and his agenda. At least in Salem’s case, they have calculated that the views and click will come in not having dissent prominently displayed along with support. MAGA-land is as engaged a political group as we have ever seen, and where there is engagement, there are clicks, views, and plenty of money to be made. And principled opinion, honest dissent, and the long view of what comes for such outlets after Trump is gone, is a calculation for another time.
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