Politico faced an internal outcry Thursday over its decision to let right-wing podcast host Ben Shapiro write a column in his widely read Politico Playbook newsletter, with staff asking editors why an expert with “a long history sectarian and inflammatory comments ”would receive such a massive platform.
Shapiro, who rose to prominence as the editor of far-right media outlet Breitbart before founding right-wing aggregation site The Daily Wire and becoming a YouTube and radio personality, regularly elicits the outrage online by sectarian rhetoric. After supporters of President Donald Trump stormed the Capitol in an attempt to overthrow the country’s democratic elections last week, Shapiro made the false equivalence of comparing the far-right seat to recent anti-racist protests, and blame President-elect Joe Biden for being “divisive” when Biden mentioned race in his condemnation of the insurgency.
In a 3 p.m. Zoom meeting throughout the newsroom, Politico editor-in-chief Matt Kaminski defended the decision to publish the column while telling staff the publication was “above ideological warfare. And that “great care has been taken in identifying potential contributors,” a Politico staff member told HuffPost.
But many employees were furious with management’s decision to give Shapiro their platform and voiced their opposition during the meeting and in emails to management.
“It’s one of the most disappointing, if not the most disappointing days that I’ve been a part of this business,” one person said at the meeting.
When staff asked Kaminski if he had any regrets or wanted to apologize for anything, he reiterated his defense of the column.
“A few things that may sound familiar to you, and I’ll say them again. This publication has journalists and editors and we do our best every day to make calls. We stick to this piece. I see no reason to apologize for posting Ben Shapiro, ”Kaminski said, according to the staff member.
“That’s about all I would like to say about it,” he added.
Earlier today, in a corporate Slack channel, staff called management to explain the column, according to posts reviewed by HuffPost.
“I think many of us in the newsroom today are wondering why POLITICO decided to lend its biggest platform, the Playbook Slot Machine, to Ben Shapiro, who has a long history of sectarian and inflammatory comments, especially following last week’s violence. », Wrote a reporter.
“This has clearly generated a wave of negative attention, and I fear it is already overshadowing the great work being done by reporters in this newsroom. I was wondering if anyone involved in this decision would be willing to talk about this choice here, or if there will be another forum where it can be discussed? ”
The comment received over 50 emoji responses of support as of early Thursday afternoon and echoes a wave of criticism from Politico for legitimizing Shapiro.
“This is particularly puzzling given the welcome efforts of the Newsroom over the past year to cover race-related issues in a more intentional, elevated, and thoughtful way.” The Daily Beast reported another member of staff responded.
Kaminski previously attempted to address concerns from staff members and stood beside the column in an already scheduled diversity and inclusion meeting ahead of the larger 3pm meeting, according to to the Daily Beast, claiming that “mischief has always been part of Politico’s secret sauce.”
Shapiro has a history of making false and bigoted comments. In 2014, he claimed that there were “800 million radicalized Muslims” in the world – a majority of the Muslim population. He has repeatedly made fear-mongering arguments about Muslim refugees and pushed far-right anti-Islamist narratives portraying Muslims as a threat to “Western civilization.”
After a mass gunman killed six people and injured 19 others in an Islamophobic attack on a Quebec mosque in January 2017, investigators found he had checked Shapiro’s Twitter account. 93 times in the month before the attack. (Shapiro condemned violence and dismissed the idea that his rhetoric had helped incite the murders.) Shapiro also claimed that transgender people “suffered from serious mental illness” and made fun of the murders of black Americans.
“Trayvon Martin would have been 21 today if he hadn’t taken a man’s head and beat her on the sidewalk before being shot,” Shapiro tweeted in 2016.
Shapiro and The Daily Wire moved to Nashville late last year, a fact he referred to in the front line of his Politico column, saying “Howdy from Nashville, y’all!” Nashville Scene, the city’s alternative weekly, has announced its move under the title “Asshole is moving to town.”
Shapiro appeared to bask in the attention and backlash his column elicited on Thursday, retweeting others who claimed it was “trigger” for the Liberals.
Politico did not immediately respond to HuffPost’s request for comment.
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