Thousands of supporters join staff at Mike Pence’s publisher in campaign against book deal

Petition signed by more than 200 Simon & Schuster employees delivered to publishing house also calls for end to deals with members of Trump administration

More than 200 members of staff at Simon & Schuster have signed a petition calling for the publishing house to cancel its seven-figure book deal with former vice-president Mike Pence and commit to not signing any more book deals with members of Donald Trump’s administration.

The petition was delivered to the publisher on Monday, the Wall Street Journal reported. It was signed by 216 S&S employees – about 14% of the publisher’s staff –and backed by more than 3,500 supporters outside the company, including authors such as the National Book Award-winning writer Jesmyn Ward.

The petition warned management not to treat “the Trump administration as a ‘normal’ chapter in American history” and criticised Pence for discriminating against marginalised groups with racist and sexist policies.

“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,” it said.

As well as demanding that S&S cancel its deal with Pence, saying that the former vice-president had “made a career out of discriminating against marginalised groups and denying resources to BIPOC and LGBTQA+ communities”, the petition also called for the publisher to never sign another deal with members of the Trump administration.

It also called for S&S to end its distribution agreement with the small conservative publisher Post Hill Press, home to books by names including Republican senator Matt Gaetz and an upcoming book by Jonathan Mattingly, one of the police officers who shot Breonna Taylor. After a public outcry two weeks ago, S&S announced that it would not distribute Mattingly’s book, titled The Fight For Truth, but continues to distribute other Post Hill Press books.

Post Hill Press publisher Anthony Ziccardi told the WSJ on Monday: “We’re proud of our publishing program, that’s what we’re focused on.”

S&S’s refusal to cancel Pence’s book deal was applauded by the National Coalition Against Censorship, which said that publishers were “increasingly being pressured to act as moral guardians by rejecting authors based on allegations about their personal conduct and their political views”.

But the free speech organisation, backed by the Media Law Resource Center and the Tully Center for Free Speech, said that “censoring books does not eliminate bad ideas”.

“Publishing employees have every right to express their views. There are important conversations to be had about how to combat racist and bigoted ideas and how a media environment that thrives on attention can amplify the most extreme voices over more moderate ones,” it said. “But free expression is a fundamental human right and it must include the ability to access all ideas and information. In a democratic society, the only way to protect our right to speak freely is to protect everyone’s right to do the same.”

Last week, S&S president Jonathan Karp responded to staff concerns after the petition began circulating in the business.

“We come to work each day to publish, not cancel, which is the most extreme decision a publisher can make, and one that runs counter to the very core of our mission to publish a diversity of voices and perspectives,” wrote Karp – despite the fact that S&S had cancelled Republican senator Josh Hawley’s book deal over his part in the Capitol riot.

“As a publisher in this polarised era, we have experienced outrage from both sides of the political divide and from different constituencies and groups,” he added.

In addition to Pence, S&S is also the publisher of Trump critics including Mary Trump’s Too Much and Never Enough, Bob Woodward’s two exposés Rage and Fear, and Hillary Clinton’s What Happened.

  • This article was updated on 28 April 2021 to add the NCAC’s reaction.

Contributor

Alison Flood

The GuardianTramp

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