In late April, Salem Media laid off a bunch of writers at the right-wing blog RedState. At the time, sources at the site told CNN that the layoffs were aimed at writers who had been critical of Donald Trump. Apparently, that’s not the only case of Salem rooting out dissent in its ranks.
CNN reported on Wednesday that Salem executives pressured some of its #NeverTrump radio hosts to cover Trump more favorably during the 2016 presidential election. Former Salem radio host Elisha Krauss told CNN that she was fired for being insufficiently supportive of Trump:
For months, Krauss said, Salem executives explicitly pressured her to change how she treated Trump. Though Krauss said she praised Trump when she felt he deserved it, it ultimately wasn’t enough. In January 2017, Krauss said, she was shell-shocked when a casual meeting with a company executive turned into her dismissal.
Krauss declined to discuss the details of her severance, but said the rest of her contract had been settled.
Krauss’ co-host on her Salem show, The Morning Answer, was noted conservative cretin Ben Shapiro. In the summer of 2016, CNN reported, the two got this email from a Salem executive:
“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?”
Another Salem VP, Phil Boyce, pushed back on Krauss’ claim that her firing was ideological, telling CNN that “research shows that our listeners want our hosts to support the president when he does well, and criticize him if and when he does or says something wrong.” Boyce also said that the RedState layoffs were completely unrelated to this issue.
Krauss and Shapiro were reportedly not the only ones to get this kind of “wink wink, nudge nudge, say more good things about Trump” email:
In his June 2016 email to Shapiro and Krauss, Boyce said that, at his suggestion, Atsinger had written to two other popular Salem hosts, Hugh Hewitt and Michael Medved, “a very well stated case for supporting the GOP nominee because we have to beat Hillary.”
Hilariously, Hewitt—who got a slap on the wrist from MSNBC this week for a massive conflict of interest involving Scott Pruitt—took this advice and wrote an op-ed for the Washington Post about it. Hewitt’s eagerness to toe the party line surprised even Salem, apparently:
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.”
Salem is just the latest example of the fact that much of conservative “media” operates as a giant press shop for the Trump administration. The Breitbart School of Journalism is now the dominant strain of thought in conservative media, and it doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon.
It should not surprise anyone when conservative companies and radio hosts are driven by ideology. But this is not a fight over ideology; it’s a fight over loyalty, which is much more pathetic. Krauss and Shapiro are diehard conservatives who simply didn’t like Donald Trump, and according to at least one of them, that break from the company’s leadership was enough to cost her a job.
Now, if only there was something that someone in that position could do to protect themselves and their coworkers when their bosses don’t think they’re shilling hard enough for the worst politicians alive...