RedState Purges Trump Critics

There has been a massive layoff at the Republican website. Everyone who criticized the President is gone.

RedState, founded back in 2004 as the conservative alternative to Daily Kos, has just fired everyone who isn’t a Trump loyalist.

CNN (“‘Mass firing’ at conservative site RedState“):

Salem Media, owner of the influential conservative outlet RedState, froze the site on Friday and dismissed many of its writers.

Bloggers were locked out of their accounts — some just temporarily, while the cuts were made, and others permanently.

Erick Erickson, who founded the site 13 years ago, and 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.

“We had to make some tough changes to RedState today,” Townhall general manager Jonathan Garthwaite wrote in the memo. “While these changes are painful, they were necessary once we reached the conclusion that we could no longer support the entire roster of writers and editors.”

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.

First off, Erickson did not found RedState. Josh Treviño, Ben Domenech, and Mike Krempasky did. Erickson came aboard the next year.

Otherwise, I suppose this isn’t surprising.

Patrick Frey, who blogs and Tweets as “Patterico,” was among those fired.

Frey is an attorney and rightly notes,

They have the right to fire anyone they want. However, any opinion site that fires people en masse because of a particular point of view is sending a message. The message is: this point of view will no longer be tolerated at this Web site. Any operator of a Web site is entitled to decide that a particular message will no longer be tolerated. When the message that will no longer be tolerated is criticism of the sitting President, that creates all kinds of problems for the site. I do not know whether management thought those problems through, but the problems will soon become apparent.

Indeed.

Krempasky invited me to join RedState’s stable ahead of the site’s launch but I declined, for two reasons. First, their vision for the site was partisan activism and I was simply never comfortable with that role. Even though I was much more a Republican partisan in those days, I was always an analyst first. Second, and relatedly, I didn’t want to lose the complete freedom that operating my own site provided.

RedState was wildly successful and one presumes the founders made out quite well with their sale to TownHall back in 2006. But, while I like and respect Krempasky and several of the early stable of writers, I certainly don’t regret that decision. And, frankly, I can’t remember the last time I read the site outside of the occasional referral link.

Still, it’s one thing to be a site predominated by conservative hacks. It’s quite another to have a loyalty oath to the sitting president. Even the sainted Ronald Reagan was allowed to be criticized.

FILED UNDER: Blogosphere, Media
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is a Security Studies professor at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Mikey says:

    Can you spell “cult?”

    I knew you could!




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  2. Even the sainted Ronald Reagan was allowed to be criticized.

    Indeed he was.

    I started reading National Review in college, which happened to coincide with Gorbachev coming to power in the USSR and the efforts that he and Reagan made toward arms control and lessening of tensions. There was more than one writer at NR, and at other conservative publications, who was highly critical of Reagan’s moves in this regard. Things like the START Treaty were equated to Chamberlain at Munich in 1938, and there were some writers who were openly speculating that the President of the United States was only agreeing to these things because he was becoming senile.

    It’s worth noting, of course, that not only is Red State owned by Townhall, but Townhall (and various other sites affiliated with it) is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, which itself has become as much a cheerleader for the Administration as Fox News Channel. All of this at the same time that conservatives continue to whine about the “biased” media without recognizing the fact that there effectively now two propaganda networks working on behalf of the Trump Administration.




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  3. @Mikey:

    A friend of mine calls it “Cult45.”




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  4. Kathy says:

    Wouldn’t a website that’s actively supportive of one candidate be considered and in-kind campaign contributor?




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  5. Kathy says:

    @Doug Mataconis:

    IMO, today’s Republicans would repudiate a man who replicated Reagan’s ideas as a RINO. Whereas Trump is openly racist, and openly hostile to the real enemy, the Democratic Party.




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  6. @Kathy:

    Not really.




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  7. sam says:

    Well, Susan Wright, who’s pretty anti-Orange, is still there (or was as of 10 minutes ago).




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  8. Gustopher says:

    I skim RedState from time to time, just to try to keep up with what the right wing is thinking — and apparently the right wing is thinking that criticism of Trump l’Orange is unacceptable.




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  9. Tony W says:

    Reddit’s famous /r/The_Donald also disallows dissent of any kind. Get aboard the Trump Train or get run over by it.

    It’s particularly amusing as they criticize non-cultists for being ‘politically-correct snowflakes’




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  10. Charon says:

    @sam:

    Not per the Daily Beast:

    https://www.thedailybeast.com/conservative-site-redstate-purges-anti-trump-voices-fired-writers-say?ref=home

    The Daily Beast confirmed that among those laid off by RedState and its parent company Townhall Media were top editors and writers Caleb Howe, Jay Caruso, Ben Howe, Patrick Frey (who writes under the pseudonym Patterico), Neil Stevens, and Susan Wright—all of whom are often critical of the president.

    ……..

    RedState is one of many conservative opinion sites in the Townhall Media roster, alongside Townhall, HotAir, Twitchy, and Human Events. As CNN noted on Friday, their parent company, Salem Media Group—which also owns radio networks and book publishers—has previously been criticized for its treatment of radio hosts who criticized Trump during the election.




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  11. My mistake.

    Sinclair doesn’t own Townhall, Salem does. #NeverMind




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  12. James Joyner says:

    @sam: @Charon: I had never heard of Wright until she was brought up in Frey’s Twitter thread but while her most recent post remains on the front page, it’s dated 11:27 pm yesterday. Presumably, they’re not purging the site of clickbait content they’ve already paid for.

    UPDATE: She confirms via Twitter that she’s gone.




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  13. Charon says:

    @Mikey: @Doug Mataconis:

    … but Townhall (and various other sites affiliated with it) is owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, which itself has become as much a cheerleader for the Administration as Fox News Channel. All of this at the same time that conservatives continue to whine about the “biased” media without recognizing the fact that there effectively now two propaganda networks working on behalf of the Trump Administration.

    With this much voter indoctrination, it could be difficult for the GOP to ever disengage from Trumpism, should it ever seek to.




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  14. Charon says:

    @Charon:

    Sinclair doesn’t own Townhall, Salem does. #NeverMind

    My bad, sorry.

    There does seem to be heavy pro-Trump presence in Conservative media, though – Rush Limbaugh for example still has a significant following.




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  15. Todd says:

    When digg reader shut down recently I decided to check out Feedly, forgetting that I already had an account there from 7 or 8 years ago. One of the feeds in that old account was Red State’s. As I’ve been browsing it from time to time over the past couple of weeks, I actually did think to myself several times “wow, I agree with many of these articles much more than I would have expected.”

    With these firings, I don’t think I’ll take it out of my feed reader altogether, but I will likely start thinking about it (again) in the same way as my several times a week stops at Breitbart and the Daily Caller. Just to read some stuff that I know almost without a doubt I won’t agree with.




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  16. Lit3Bolt says:

    This just proclaims the real intent of American conservatives these days. Their enemies are all domestic, and they will ally with any party, including Trump, including Russia, including North Korea, to “own” the hated liberals.

    Trump is a flagrant flaunt of the power of conservative media. The most unqualified, untrustworthy, ignorant man can become president thanks to the power of Sinclair and Fox.




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  17. Stormy Dragon says:

    And, frankly, I can’t remember the last time I read the site outside of the occasional referral link.

    Redstate, like Newsmax.com or WND, is one of those sites that’s a pretty strong signal I can safely ignore what the person who linked to it is saying.




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  18. Meh,

    I found myself reading fewer and fewer articles at Red State, and certain authors (Susan Wright) completely. The “Never Trump” refrain was old and annoying. I’ve been to two Red State Gatherings, I look forward to seeing how things work out going foreward.




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  19. Nitpicker says:

    I can’t wait to read the denunciations of this by those who said firing Kevin Williamson was tantamount to fascism.




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  20. CSK says:

    Well, they seem to have fired all their writers who were semi-literate.




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  21. CSK says:

    Hotair will be next, with Allahpundit’s head the first to roll. Lucianne.com has already purged itself of most of its commenters who criticize Trump.




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  22. MarkedMan says:

    This self censorship amongst so called Conservatives has been going on for a long long time. I remember checking in with the conservative think tanks over the years and finding white papers that had all the trappings of careful research and cogent writing but that actually just left out the most compelling evidence against their point. Didn’t one of them get caught out a decade or so ago actually pitching to energy companies or some such that they would write favorable papers in exchange for cash?




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  23. Mikey says:

    @Tony W: T_D is the least self-aware collection of people that has existed in the entire history of human evolution.




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  24. Monala says:

    @Doug Mataconis: Not really what?




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  25. gVOR08 says:

    More suppression of legitimate points of view by the libtard MSM. What… RedState… wait…




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  26. Tony W says:

    @Mikey:

    T_D is the least self-aware collection of people that has existed in the entire history of human evolution.

    Well, to be fair, it’s mostly up-vote bots.




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  27. gVOR08 says:

    In similar welcome news, Milo Yiannopoulos’ little company is apparently biting the dust since the Mercers, pere et fille, decided funding him was inconsistent with maintaining a low profile and his replacement sugar daddy died of a drug overdose.




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  28. Mark Newman says:

    These days, it seems the general public assumes ALL GOPers are Trump supporters. Wrong. Try this test to separate normal Republicans from Trumplicans. Have a conversation with a Conservitive. At some point, disagree with them, especially on social media: In less than a minute you’ll have your answer between thoughtful, politically aware citizen versus programmed attack dog.




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  29. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Charon: I’ve always been more inclined to see it as Trump aligning with GOPism. Trump doesn’t have any isms other than egoism. When Trump dies (metaphorically or in reality) the GOP will still be what it has been for 40-some years and Red State would have the same sort of content with Cruz as President. Right down to the purges for non-Cruz think.




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  30. Just 'nutha ig'nint cracker says:

    @Mark Newman: You’re right; it’s not all it’s only 80%. Our bad. Please forgive us.




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  31. CSK says:

    @Mark Newman:

    Charlie Baker, the Republican governor of Massachusetts, has made no secret of his loathing for Trump.




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  32. Charon says:

    @CSK:

    Baker gets away with that as the Governor of a very blue state who needs some amount of independent and Democrat support to survive.

    Exceptions to a generalization associated with unusual circumstances does not invalidate the generalization. Choices the GOP made many years ago have culminated in the GOP painted into a corner of mostly enforced lack of diversity of belief and policy. Trump has opportunistically latched onto the GOP proclivity for herd behavior and gotten the GOP herd stampeding into a personality cult featuring him.

    I agree with cracker that the GOP won’t change much post-Trump, but part of that will be permanently integrating “Trumpism” to the extent there is such a thing.

    @MarkedMan:

    This self censorship amongst so called Conservatives has been going on for a long long time.

    When I get a chance to post, I will have some thoughts on how and why Conservative uniformity of opinion developed. (I do agree with Mark Newman that there are habitual Republicans who can be weaned away from Trumpism).




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  33. michael reynolds says:

    When you’re winning you can tolerate criticism. When you’re losing, not so much. This purge is evidence of insecurity, evidence that the cult is withdrawing further into itself because it can no longer even pretend to confront reality. And we see it here, don’t we? Most of the Trumpaloons have fled these pages.

    As I said a while back: they all know Trump is guilty, they all know he’s a disaster, but it’s identity now, the Trumpaloons identify so completely with Trump that criticism of him is criticism of them, and being weak people, they are incapable of admitting error or fault.

    This is why we’re seeing a gap between professed support for Trump and disastrously bad showings in special elections. They can’t bring themselves to separate from Trump, but they know in their hearts that this has to end.




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  34. Gustopher says:

    Now, if they just purge the Trump supporters, then it might be a good website…




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  35. CSK says:

    @michael reynolds:

    We saw this first with Sarah Palin, and with the same group of people. They didn’t just identify with Palin; they merged their identities with hers. “I am Sarah Palin!” was the refrain. And the cultlike fervor was eerily similar.




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  36. dazedandconfused says:

    The strain of putting a good face on this particular POTUS is definitely causing some rifts to appear. Sean Hannity and Trump:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VfoaWHsdTNU




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