Bad news for anyone expecting an apology from Politico for having conservative firebrand Ben Shapiro guest-write Thursday’s Playbook newsletter: Politico editor in chief Matt Kaminski told staff that there will be no such apology.
Politico also released a statement defending its decision to have Shapiro write the newsletter, obtained by The Washington Post’s Erik Wemple.
Shapiro’s byline on the daily newsletter — which is being guest-written by prominent media personalities this month — sparked a backlash on Twitter.
“We have taken great care to assemble a roster of guest authors who are prominent thinkers and writers and represent a range of perspectives,” the Politico statement said. “What sets Politico apart in this intense political and media moment is that we rise above ideological warfare – even as many seek to drag us into it. It’s a core value of the publication that is unchangeable, and that above all protects our ability to do independent journalism. It’s a part of our mission.”
According to reporting from Max Tani of The Daily Beast, Politico editors stand by Shapiro’s version of the newsletter, and told staffers the decision to hand Playbook over to Shapiro for the day was in keeping with the website’s history. According to Kaminski: “Mischief making has always been a part of Politico’s secret sauce. We were an upstart. Some of that sensibility is always going to be a part of this publication.”
Wemple reported that some 225 people attended a Zoom call with Politico editors Thursday afternoon to discuss internal complaints over the decision. While some were “very mad,” according to Wemple, he also reported that others didn’t share their colleague’s outrage, but “didn’t speak up on the call because the sentiment is so heated and one-sided.”
Shapiro is the founding editor in chief and current editor emeritus of The Daily Wire, a website with conservative takes on news, entertainment, and opinion. Shapiro, who has a history of making derogatory and inflammatory remarks about Muslims, African-Americans, women, LGBTQ people, and secular Jewish people (Shapiro himself is Jewish), also hosts The Ben Shapiro Show, a popular conservative daily podcast.
Other Playbook authors of late have included liberal MSNBC host Chris Hayes, former New York Times editorial page editor James Bennet (who resigned from the Times following backlash to an op-ed by Sen. Tom Cotton called “Send in the Troops”), editor in chief of the conservative Washington Free Beacon Eliana Johnson, documentarian Ken Burns, CBS White House correspondent Weijia Jiang, and PBS NewsHour White House correspondent Yamiche Alcindor.
Politico announced in December that Playbook would be led by a rotating cast of high-profile guest authors. Jake Sherman and Anna Palmer, Playbook’s longtime editors, left Politico at the beginning of the year to launch Punchbowl, a daily newsletter focusing on Capitol Hill.
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