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“A ‘Mass Exodus’ Of Staff May Follow”: Head Of Glenn Beck’s Media Empire Quits As The Blaze Burns Down

In what knowledgeable observers say is a sign of increasing turmoil in Glenn Beck’s troubled media empire, Beck’s longtime mentor and corporate executive, Kraig Kitchin, has quit as CEO of The Blaze.

Kitchin’s replacement, Stewart Padveen, a digital startup entrepreneur who joined Beck’s company last summer, will be the fourth leader of The Blaze since late 2014.

Kitchin, 54, who took over operations of Beck’s conservative-leaning subscription digital and cable television enterprise last June—after two previous CEOs abruptly left in the space of six months—is resigning along with two other senior executives: Jeremy Price, director of advertising sales, and Liz Julis, director of marketing.

Both are based in New York, 1,500 miles removed from corporate headquarters in the Dallas suburb of Irving, Texas.

Several other key employees, including at least two senior producers based in The Blaze’s shrinking New York operation, are expected to follow them out the door.

A source close to the situation predicted a “mass exodus” from the New York studios, which are housed in a largely unoccupied 35,000 square-foot space at Midtown Manhattan’s Bryant Park, previously rented by Yahoo, under a 10-year lease costing Beck’s privately held company an estimated $2 million a year.

Kitchin—who co-founded Premiere Radio Networks three decades ago and has worked with personalities as diverse as Rush Limbaugh, Ryan Seacrest, Whoopi Goldberg, and Beck—tried to put the best face on his resignation in a company-wide email sent out Thursday night.

He described his apparently self-imposed demotion as a result of outside business obligations.

“Our organization—The Blaze—deserves and needs an exclusively focused leader and that’s something I cannot provide, given existing commitments I choose to honor,” Kitchin wrote, adding that “I’m not leaving this company. I’ll stay with The Blaze, working every day as the Interim Head of Sales with a focus on finding the right person for that position, assisting in the transition, on advertiser growth, program development, and industry relations.”

But according to multiple sources, Kitchin’s announcement comes out of frustration after continual friction with top Beck executive Jonathan Schreiber, the recently named president of Beck’s 14-year-old production company, Mercury Radio Arts.

According to multiple sources, Kitchin—who commuted from his home in Los Angeles to Dallas and New York—took the CEO job on an interim basis with the condition that Schreiber would agree not to interfere in The Blaze, an agreement that Kitchin realized was continually being breached. According to people familiar with the situation, Schreiber’s alleged meddling in Kitchin’s operation ultimately became intolerable.

Schreiber didn’t respond to an email from The Daily Beast, and Kitchin declined to comment.

Named president in April 2015 of Mercury Radio Arts—of which The Blaze is a subsidiary, all of it majority-owned by Beck—Schreiber is said to have a penchant for interfering in areas beyond his expertise, namely the staffing and content of The Blaze’s news and opinion site and its television production operation.

The Blaze cable channel reaches an estimated 13 million households which subscribe to DISH, Verizon Fios, and other paid television carriers.

Schreiber’s alleged intrusion is said to have also figured in the departure in June of then-Blaze chief executive Betsy Morgan, an experienced digital media executive who previously ran CBS News’s digital operations, helped grow The Huffington Post, and built TheBlaze.com into a news and aggregation site that—in November 2014—attracted 29 million unique visitors per month.

But by November 2015—according to figures from the Web traffic measuring service Quantcast—monthly traffic for TheBlaze.com had dropped to 16.4 million unique visitors, and traffic for the associated website GlennBeck.com, had plunged from 4.4 million to 1.4 million uniques.

Morgan—ironically, according to sources—had recommended Schreiber to Beck and helped secure his initial position with the company, shouldering a vague responsibility for “strategy and special projects.”

A religious man who practices Orthodox Judaism, Schreiber quickly hit it off with Beck, a devout Mormon convert.

Morgan had replaced Beck’s longtime CEO Chris Balfe, who abruptly exited the company in December 2014, along with fellow exec Joel Cheatwood, as Schreiber was gaining more prominence and influence.

Balfe, who along with Cheatwood retains a minority ownership stake in The Blaze, left after more than a decade of helping Beck build his brand and become a media personality, and was instrumental in the soft launch of The Blaze six years ago while Beck was still hosting his short-lived but wildly popular 5 p.m. program on the Fox News Channel.

Stewart Padveen, Schreiber’s personal friend and “mentor” (as Schreiber describes him in a LinkedIn endorsement), will assume control of The Blaze effective Monday.

Padveen, who lives in Los Angeles, wrote in a staff email that he plans to visit Dallas “next week to kick off this process,” with a later trip planned to New York.

“2015 was a tough year for sure, but thanks to many of you, it was a profitable one,” Padveen wrote concerning this latest corporate shakeup.

“We all owe a debt of gratitude to Kraig for guiding us through some rough times. We still have some history to redress, but if we continue down the path of making solid business decisions, we can get past the past and into the future.”

Besides a period of staff layoffs and turnover that continues to this day, and despite claims of profitability, that “history” apparently includes taking on more debt than the company’s principal owner was comfortable with.

At a staff meeting in New York last February, Beck exhorted his employees to pinch pennies and said the company’s debt was too high at $3 million—a figure sources said later grew to $5 million or more.

“I know much of what has happened since December of 2014, but also much of it has been structural and behind the curtain,” Beck wrote in his own email, in which he thanked Kitchin for his service. “We were a company that was swimming in debt. With the hard work of Kraig, Jonathan, and now Misty [Kawecki, the chief financial officer] we will be debt free by summer. This is miraculous and takes all of the downward pressure off of us.”

Schreiber, a digital startup entrepreneur in his early forties, is a controversial and mysterious figure within Mercury Radio Arts. According to colleagues, he has referred to himself as a “diehard Glenn Beck fan” who, after years of living in Israel, relocated to New York, talked his way into Beck’s confidence, and showed up as a “trusted advisor,” as Beck has called him, in the fall of 2014.

“I want to thank Kraig for everything he has done to help bring the Blaze to the place it is,” Schreiber wrote in his own email, “and welcome Stewart to help bring the Blaze to the places it can go.”

In what a couple of Beck veterans considered ominous corporate-speak, Schreiber added: “All of us, leadership in BOTH companies, have worked together to help ensure that every person will be put into the right role at the right company with clear responsibilities and direction. This will continue to be a process and not an event.”

 

By: Lloyd Grove, The Daily Beast, January 29, 2016

January 31, 2016 Posted by | Conservative Media, Glenn Beck, The Blaze | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Insanity Started A Long Time Ago”: Overheated Talk Against The Government Has Come Back To Bite The GOP

Julian Zeilzer, professor of history and public affairs at Princeton University, isn’t buying the handwringing we’re seeing from David Brooks and the National Review about the presidential candidacies of Donald Trump and Ted Cruz. In a case that others have made, but perhaps not so thoroughly, he says: GOP Establishment Deserves Trump, Cruz.

Going back to Reagan’s embrace of the Moral Majority, the racism Lee Atwater infused into George H.W. Bush’s presidential campaign and the fact that it was McCain who chose Palin to be his running mate in 2008, Zeilzer demonstrates how GOP presidential candidates laid the groundwork for what is happening today.

He also captures how Boehner and McConnell initially embraced the election of tea party candidates like Ted Cruz back in 2010.

In the House of Representatives, Republican leaders were more than welcoming to the tea party revolution that took hold in 2010 — until it no longer suited their purposes. John Boehner and Mitch McConnell welcomed the energy and enthusiasm that tea party activists brought to the fight against President Barack Obama.

While the activists might have pushed the boundaries of acceptable partisan compact with threats like allowing the government to go into default, the discipline as a voting block and willingness to stand up to an ambitious President helped, in the leadership’s minds, to revitalize the standing of the party. Or at least that’s what Boehner thought before he felt he had to leave.

Zeilzer points out that conservative media has also played a role – echoing the warnings of conservative David Frum.

I’ve been on a soapbox for months now about the harm that our overheated talk is doing to us. Yes it mobilizes supporters – but by mobilizing them with hysterical accusations and pseudo-information, overheated talk has made it impossible for representatives to represent and elected leaders to lead. The real leaders are on TV and radio, and they have very different imperatives from people in government. Talk radio thrives on confrontation and recrimination…If Republicans succeed – if they govern successfully in office and negotiate attractive compromises out of office – Rush’s listeners get less angry. And if they are less angry, they listen to the radio less, and hear fewer ads for Sleepnumber beds.

Finally, Zeilzer notes that overheated talk against the government has come back to bite the GOP establishment.

At the heart of the Cruz and Trump campaign is an essential message that has been a central theme of conservatism in the post-World War II period: that Washington is never good and career politicians are without virtue.

Their anti-politics rhetoric comes directly out of the “conservative establishment” politics that formed in the 1970s and 1980s. “Government is not the solution to our problem; government is the problem,” Reagan said.

Once again today, David Brooks is pleading with Republicans to “stay sane.” His supplications completely ignore the path the GOP took that led them to where they are today. As Zeilzer notes, “the alliance, the ideas, the rhetoric and the style have all come from the heart of Republican politics.” In other words, there’s no “staying” sane. That’s because the insanity started a very long time ago.

 

By: Nancy LeTourneau, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, January 26, 2016

January 27, 2016 Posted by | Conservative Media, GOP Presidential Candidates, Moral Majority, Ronald Reagan | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“A Fraud And A Danger To The Republic Itself”: ‘National Review’ Goes To War Against Donald Trump

National Review, the most prominent conservative magazine of the past 60 years, has now gone to press with a new issue dedicated to a single topic: Stopping the Republican frontrunner, Donald Trump, declaring him to be a fraud and a danger to the republic itself.

“There are understandable reasons for his eminence, and he has shown impressive gut-level skill as a campaigner,” the editorial states. “But he is not deserving of conservative support in the caucuses and primaries. Trump is a philosophically unmoored political opportunist who would trash the broad conservative ideological consensus within the GOP in favor of a free-floating populism with strong-man overtones.”

From a magazine that in its founding era officially supported white supremacy and segregation — as well as endorsing the fascist Spanish dictator Francisco Franco, among many other sins — these are certainly strong charges.

The editorial signifies a greater problem for the right, beyond just one candidacy: Once upon a time, the inmates took over the asylum — and now after all the paranoia, ginned-up outrage, and barely-veiled racism they have engineered over these many decades, a whole new generation of inmates are revolting against them.

Trump was quick to respond — on Twitter, of course:

National Review is a failing publication that has lost it’s way. It’s circulation is way down w its influence being at an all time low. Sad!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 22, 2016

Very few people read the National Review because it only knows how to criticize, but not how to lead.

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 22, 2016

The late, great, William F. Buckley would be ashamed of what had happened to his prize, the dying National Review!

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 22, 2016

In its editorial, the magazine declares:

If Trump were to become the president, the Republican nominee, or even a failed candidate with strong conservative support, what would that say about conservatives? The movement that ground down the Soviet Union and took the shine, at least temporarily, off socialism would have fallen in behind a huckster. The movement concerned with such “permanent things” as constitutional government, marriage, and the right to life would have become a claque for a Twitter feed.

Trump nevertheless offers a valuable warning for the Republican party. If responsible men irresponsibly ignore an issue as important as immigration, it will be taken up by the reckless. If they cannot explain their Beltway maneuvers — worse, if their maneuvering is indefensible — they will be rejected by their own voters. If they cannot advance a compelling working-class agenda, the legitimate anxieties and discontents of blue-collar voters will be exploited by demagogues. We sympathize with many of the complaints of Trump supporters about the GOP, but that doesn’t make the mogul any less flawed a vessel for them.

Some conservatives have made it their business to make excuses for Trump and duly get pats on the head from him. Count us out. Donald Trump is a menace to American conservatism who would take the work of generations and trample it underfoot in behalf of a populism as heedless and crude as the Donald himself.

NR has also included a “symposium” piece, composed of short notes from various conservative activists decrying Trump and what he stands for — many of them carrying their own levels of irony, from people who helped to foment the paranoia that now fuels The Donald’s rise.

As just one example, let’s take a look at this plaintive cry from Bill Kristol:

In a letter to National Review, Leo Strauss wrote that “a conservative, I take it, is a man who despises vulgarity; but the argument which is concerned exclusively with calculations of success, and is based on blindness to the nobility of the effort, is vulgar.” Isn’t Donald Trump the very epitome of vulgarity?

In sum: Isn’t Trumpism a two-bit Caesarism of a kind that American conservatives have always disdained? Isn’t the task of conservatives today to stand athwart Trumpism, yelling Stop?

Recently, Kristol has been talking up the “semi-serious” notion of starting a whole new party of breakaway Republicans, to run their own ticket if Trump were to win the GOP nomination — so outrageous does he view the idea of Trump as the conservative standard-bearer.

But on the subject of American conservatives having allegedly always disdained vulgarity, Kristol is overlooking a very salient point: He, Bill Kristol, was one of the original, key boosters of Sarah Palin, promoting her selection as John McCain’s running mate in 2008. And as recently as 2014, Kristol was still touting Palin as a potential candidate for president in 2016.

This week, of course, Palin endorsed Trump with a cry of “Hallelujah.”

 

By: Eric Kleefeld, The National Memo, January 22, 2016

January 23, 2016 Posted by | Conservative Media, Donald Trump, National Review | , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“A Hatred That Will Not Fade”: Why Republicans Are Still Losing Their Minds Over Bill Clinton’s Sex Life

Donald Trump is very, very excited to talk about Bill Clinton’s sexual history, and he’s not alone. Stroll around the conservative media universe, from Breitbart to Drudge to Limbaugh, and you’d almost think Clinton was still president and the most urgent task faced by the right was discrediting him. And judging from the people sending angry missives my way via email and social media (not a representative sample of anything, but still suggestive), the outright rage against both Bill and Hillary Clinton burns as bright as it ever did.

It’s too early to say whether this will turn out to be a momentary issue, filling up a week or two of the primary campaign and then disappearing. But I doubt it, because that anger is real. The conservatives who were around during the 1990s don’t loathe Bill Clinton any less than they ever did, and the prospect of his wife becoming president is bringing all those feelings to the fore.

For the purposes of this article, I won’t be assessing the veracity of anyone’s accusations against Bill Clinton, which is perhaps a worthy topic of discussion but one for another day. I’m interested in what the issue tells us about where we are now and where we might be going. This was touched off by Donald Trump when he responded to Hillary Clinton saying he has a penchant for sexism by firing back that she can’t talk because her husband mistreated women. Though Trump didn’t seem to care much about Clinton’s sex life 20 years ago, this was like firing a starting gun, with old accusations remade and old feelings renewed.

To understand this, it’s important to remember how conservatives felt about Bill Clinton when he was president. It wasn’t just that they disliked him personally and disagreed with his policies. Many political opponents also found Clinton infuriating, exasperating, maddening. With that easy charm and that ready smile and that silver tongue, they thought he was as phony as could be. It wasn’t just that they found him dishonest, or that he always played it close to the ethical line. It was that again and again, he got away with it. Every time they thought they had him in their clutches, he’d manage to slip free.

The Monica Lewinsky affair, culminating in impeachment, was the apotheosis of this pattern, the ne plus ultra Clinton scandal. Republicans were sure they had him — for Pete’s sake, he had an affair with a 20-something intern right there in the White House! Surely the public would finally see the true nature of his villainy and turn away from him in disgust once and for all. But even then, Clinton escaped — and not only that, Republicans were the ones who ended up condemned by the public, and Clinton left office two years later with boffo approval ratings. It was enough to make you lose your mind.

And so many of them did, even those who didn’t travel through the fever swamps where no conspiracy theory about Clinton was too outlandish to believe (there were prominent political figures who sincerely thought that Clinton ran a vast drug-smuggling operation as governor of Arkansas and had murdered dozens of his political opponents and allies). When Clinton waltzed out of office, all they were left with was their frustration, disappointment, and a hatred that would not fade.

The frustration wouldn’t dissipate as long as Hillary Clinton, whom they always hated nearly as much, could one day become president. Now they have a new story to tell: Not only was Bill Clinton a serial abuser of women, but Hillary Clinton was no victim at all, but rather an active participant in his reign of terror, enabling and covering up his crimes.

This is an appealing story for conservatives with long memories, for multiple reasons. It’s not because their concern for women is so profound, and it’s not because they’ve made a careful strategic assessment that this issue is likely to significantly wound Hillary Clinton’s presidential bid (it probably won’t). What raising this issue does is allow them to fight that old battle again, to say that when they were mocked for their Clinton Derangement Syndrome, they were right all along and Bill Clinton was worse than everyone thought. And unlike things like Hillary’s emails or Benghazi, it allows them to wage a frontal assault on both Clintons at the same time.

The media environment today is far different than it was when opponents helped build what Hillary so famously referred to as the “vast right-wing conspiracy.” The start-up costs for such a conspiracy have been reduced to almost nothing, and accusations that 20 years ago had to be carefully nurtured if they were to spread will today move through the ecosystem in a matter of minutes. But at the same time, the unity of focus that characterized the right in those days is more difficult to sustain when so many people have the ability to move the agenda in one direction or another.

So those who want nothing more than to keep everyone’s attention on Bill Clinton’s sexual history won’t have an easy task before them. And just as before, their hatred, their mania, and their sheer desperation will probably turn them into their own worst enemies. And the Clintons will escape yet again.

 

By: Paul Waldman, Senior Writer, The American Prospect; Contributor, The Week, January 8, 2015

January 10, 2016 Posted by | Bill and Hillary Clinton, Conservative Media, Conservatives | , , , , , | 2 Comments

“GOP: A Neo-Fascist White-Identity Party?”: In Trump’s GOP, It’s Not So Fringe Anymore

I’ve been reading recently about Bill Clinton’s presidency for a project I’m working on, and I just got to the part about the Oklahoma City bombing. What stood out to me, reading over this material in the Era of Trump, is the way a number of congressional Republicans at the time played footsie with the then-burgeoning far-right militia movements in the run-up to the bombing itself.

If you have no memory of that time, here’s what happened in a nutshell. Right-wing militia movements started growing in the late 1980s. In August 1992, federal agents shot and killed a survivalist in Idaho named Randy Weaver, and his wife and son, after a months-long standoff after Weaver had missed a court date (it was on a weapons charge, but the government really wanted him to flip and become an informant on Aryan Nations, and he said no). It became an iconic moment in those circles.

UPDATE: Randy Weaver survived the raid. His wife and a son were killed, along with a federal agent. He went on to stand trial and was acquitted of most charges; others were laid aside by a judge.

When the dreaded son of the 60s Clinton was elected, membership in such groups spiked further. Then just three months into Clinton’s term came the FBI storming of the Branch Davidian compound in Waco, Texas, resulting in 76 deaths. The next year Clinton and Congress passed, over the NRA’s objections (yes, this was possible, although it did help lose the Democrats their House majority in 1994), an assault-weapons ban. Finally, in April 1995, on the second anniversary of the Waco siege, Timothy McVeigh exploded his truck bomb in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people.

What’s relevant to us today is the way Republicans and the mainstream conservative movement pandered to these militant far-right groups. Many didn’t merely criticize the ATF and the FBI, which was entirely reasonable under the circumstances, but went beyond that to stoke these peoples’ paranoia about government and suggest/not suggest, in that same way we’re familiar with on those non-answer/answers about Obama’s citizenship, that armed resistance was acceptable. Texas Senator Phil Gramm, who was prominent and respected and at one point a plausible presidential candidate, was probably the highest-profile pol to use such rhetoric, arguably aside from Newt Gingrich himself. And of course Republican and conservative movement stoking of fears about immigrants has been constant.

This was also the time when right-wing talk radio was just exploding (there was no Fox News just yet). Aside from all the normal racial and xenophobic ranting, the AM airwaves were also full of defenses of these movements. G. Gordon Liddy, of Watergate infamy, once advised his listeners that if they saw an ATF man approaching, “Go for a head shot; they’re going to be wearing bulletproof vests.”

There’s no serious counterpart to this on the liberal left. You could compare it I guess to Leonard Bernstein’s radical chic back in the day, but unlike Phil Gramm, Bernstein wasn’t a United States senator whose presidential candidacy was being taken seriously by serious people. The difference may simply stem from the fact that radical left-wingers don’t typically vote in our corrupt capitalist system, while radical right-wingers more typically do. But whatever the reason, the difference is there and has been for a good 20 years at least.

The line from all this to the rise of Donald Trump, based wholly on his immigrant-bashing rhetoric, is direct and indisputable. Back in August, in The New Yorker, Evan Osnos went out and spoke to white nationalists and far-right figures who were enthusiastic about Trump. One, a man named Jared Taylor, who edits a white nationalist magazine, told Osnos: “I’m sure he would repudiate any association with people like me, but his support comes from people who are more like me than he might like to admit.”

Trump thus culminates a process that’s been going on in the Republican Party for two generations now. Fringe elements never properly denounced then are now, under Trump, becoming an in-broad-daylight part of the Republican coalition. But now, since all this has been going on so long, are they even fringe elements? When 65 percent of Republicans tell a pollster they support Trump’s poisonous call to ban Muslims from the country, it’s hard to call that fringe. A more recent poll puts that support level at “only” 42 percent, but that’s still higher than the percentage who opposed it (36). That sure isn’t fringe either.

The Republican Party of Trump is becoming a white-identity party, like the far-right parties of Europe. Yes, it includes token members of other races, which accounts for Ben Carson, who’s just a political idiot, whatever his skills in the operating theater. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz are in a different category as Cubans; in our political discourse, we throw them into the mix as Latino, but of course Cubans are very different culturally and politically from other Latinos; and besides, there are certainly racial categories among Cubans themselves, and Afro-Cubans these two are not.

But whatever one wants to say about those three and others like them, they’re part of a tiny minority in a party that’s probably 97 percent white people, a significant percentage of whom are now openly embracing their racial identity; that is, they’re supporting Trump as white people, because they feel he will protect their white privilege. And yes, this is very different from why black people voted for Obama as black people, and if you even need me to explain that, you’re totally lost.

What is the Republican Party going to do about this? So far it sure hasn’t done much. Denunciations of Trump by Reince Priebus and most others are mechanical and pro forma. You can find headlines blaring that all of them “denounced” Trump, but if you actually read the quotes and tweets, they’re mostly worded pretty gingerly. Jeb Bush did call him “unhinged,” but that sounded like sour grapes from Mr. 3 Percent. The only one who for my money sounds genuinely shocked and saddened by this situation is Lindsey Graham. The rest of them are basically ducking the historical moment and hoping it passes.

Maybe it will pass. In the latest Iowa poll, Cruz now leads Trump by 10 points. But Trump still leads by a mile in New Hampshire and nationally. So there’s a strong chance all of this won’t just go away on its own.

Then the Republican Party will have a choice, a choice it really has to make already, about whether it is collectively willing to stand up and say no, we don’t want to become to neo-fascist, white-identity party. Of course if the party’s leaders do that, they are thwarting, potentially, the will of their voters. It’s quite a bind to be in. And it’s one they created, starting at least 20 years ago.

 

By: Michael Tomasky, The Daily Beast, December 14, 2015

December 15, 2015 Posted by | Conservative Media, GOP Presidential Candidates, Militia Movement, White Nationalists | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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