More than 200 employees at Simon and Schuster call on company to stop publishing books by Trump-linked authors

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Gustaf Kilander
·3 min read
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 (REUTERS)
(REUTERS)

More than 200 employees at publisher Simon & Schuster have signed a petition calling on the company to stop publishing books by authors connected to former president Donald Trump.

Employees handed over the petition to executives on Monday. The petition demands that Simon & Schuster not publish a memoir by former vice president Mike Pence. A letter aimed at senior leadership asks that the publishing house doesn’t treat “the Trump administration as a ‘normal’ chapter in American history,” according to The Wall Street Journal.

Aware of the then-circulating petition, chief executive Jonathan Karp sent a letter internally at the company shooting down the demands last week.

The 216 employees who signed the petition make up about 14 per cent of the company’s workforce. According to the letter sent with the petition, it has 3,500 outside supporters with several prominent writers of colour among them.

The letter and petition were sent to Mr Karp and Dana Canedy, who succeeded Mr Karp as publisher in July 2020.

The petition argued that Mr Pence has pushed for racist, sexist, and anti-LGBTQ+ policies. The appeal included a call for Simon & Schuster to end its distribution agreement with Post Hill Press, which publishes conservative books.

Post Hill Press publisher Anthony Ziccardi told The Wall Street Journal: “We’re proud of our publishing program, that’s what we’re focused on.”

The petition highlights the tightrope some publishers walk, balancing releasing books that hold commercial value, but which may also be politically sensitive. While publishers, in general, want to boost authors coming from different perspectives and espousing a range of views, they also want to avoid antagonising their workers and customers.

As one of the leaders in publishing books in the field of politics, Simon & Schuster last year published Live Free or Die by Fox News host Sean Hannity and The Room Where It Happened: A White House Memoir by former national security adviser John Bolton.

When pushing back on his employees’ demands last week, Mr Karp said in his internal letter that the purpose of the company includes publishing “a diversity of voices and perspectives”.

Former US vice president Mike PenceAFP via Getty Images
Former US vice president Mike PenceAFP via Getty Images

The letter from employees said: “When S&S chose to sign Mike Pence, we broke the public’s trust in our editorial process, and blatantly contradicted previous public claims in support of Black and other lives made vulnerable by structural oppression.”

“Simon & Schuster has chosen complicity in perpetuating white supremacy by publishing Mike Pence and continuing to distribute books for Post Hill Press, including predator Matt Gaetz’s FIREBRAND,” the employee statement said.

“By choosing to publish Mike Pence, Simon & Schuster is generating wealth for a central figure of a presidency that unequivocally advocated for racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, anti-Blackness, xenophobia, misogyny, ableism, islamophobia, antisemitism, and violence. This is not a difference of opinions; this is legitimizing bigotry,” they added.

A statement from Mr Karp said: “We come to work each day to publish, not cancel, which is the most extreme decision a publisher can make.”

Mr Pence signed a deal with Simon & Schuster earlier this month to publish two books, with the first expected to come out in 2023.

In a statement, Mr Pence said: “I am grateful to have the opportunity to tell the story of my life in public service to the American people,” adding that he will take “readers on a journey from a small town in Indiana to Washington”.

Ms Canedy said Mr Pence’s “life and work, his journey as a Christian, the challenges and triumphs he has faced, and the lessons he has learned, tells an American story of extraordinary public service”.

The Independent has reached out to Mr Pence for comment.

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