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Simon & Schuster President Commits to Publishing Mike Pence Books Despite Staffers’ Demands

”We come to work each day to publish, not cancel, which is the most extreme decision a publisher can make,“ Jonathan Karp tells staff

Simon & Schuster’s president and CEO said Tuesday the publisher will be moving forward with its two-book deal with former Vice President Mike Pence despite a petition circulated by staff demanding that the deal be canceled.

“As a publisher in this polarized era, we have experienced outrage from both sides of the political divide and from different constituencies and groups. But 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,” Simon & Schuster president and CEO Jonathan Karp wrote in a message to staff. “We will, therefore, proceed in our publishing agreement with Vice President Mike Pence.”

Earlier this month, Simon & Schuster announced Pence had signed a two-book deal with the publisher, with the first book tentatively scheduled to publish in 2023. The deal is worth $3 million to $4 million, according to CNN.

But this past week, a group of Simon & Schuster employees released an open letter and petition calling on Simon & Schuster to cancel its book deal with Pence and end its distribution deal with Post Hill Press, the publishing house that is set to release a book with Jonathan Mattingly, a Louisville police officer involved in Breonna Taylor’s killing. (Last week, Simon & Schuster said it would not distribute Mattingly’s book.)

In his message to staff, Karp said the decision to not distribute Mattingly’s book was “immediate, unprecedented, and responsive to the concerns we heard from you and our authors” but that Simon & Schuster has “contractual obligations and must continue to respect the terms of our agreements with our client publishers.”

“The judgment each of us renders about particular books is inherently subjective,” Karp wrote. “Discussing how we perceive various works is one of the joys of our business. When we share an enthusiastic consensus about a title, we are a positive and powerful force in the culture. When we allow our judgment to dwell on the books we dislike, we distract ourselves from our primary purpose as a publisher – to champion the books we believe in and love.”

But in the letter and petition from staff, described as a “statement from the workforce of S&S,” the employees said Simon & Schuster has “chosen complicity in perpetuating white supremacy” by publishing Pence’s books and distributing works from Post Hill Press, which is also the publisher behind Matt Gaetz’s “Firebrand.”

“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,” the letter said. “This is not a difference of opinions; this is legitimizing bigotry.”

The Simon & Schuster employees also said that by continuing its distribution deal with Post Hill Press — which specializes in publishing “conservative political books” — Simon & Schuster “openly supports and normalizes violence against minors, Black women, and all Black people by individuals and the state.” The letter also demanded that Simon & Schuster “commit to ongoing reevaluations of all clients, authors, distribution deals, and all other financial commitments that promote white supremacist content and/or harm the aforementioned marginalized communities.”

“We impart to you the sad and unfortunate truth that we are actively making history right now: people will look back on this one day, and see that through our complicity, we chose to be on what is clearly the wrong side of justice,” the employees said.

Read the full message from Jonathan Karp below.

Dear Colleagues,

I am writing to you in response to a petition, circulated by some of our employees, that calls into question recent acquisition decisions and ongoing business relationships at Simon & Schuster.

The question of which books we should publish is addressed by our editors and publishers on a daily basis. Our role is to find those authors and works that can shed light on our world — from first-time novelists to journalists, thought leaders, scientists, memoirists, personalities, and, yes, those who walk the halls of power. Regardless of where those authors sit on the ideological spectrum, or if they hold views that run counter to the belief systems held by some of us, we apply a rigorous standard to assure that in acquiring books, we will be bringing into the world works that provide new information or perspectives on events to which we otherwise might not have access.

As a publisher in this polarized era, we have experienced outrage from both sides of the political divide and from different constituencies and groups. But 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. We will, therefore, proceed in our publishing agreement with Vice President Mike Pence.

On Friday I wrote to you with background on our decision to not distribute a planned book from Post Hill Press by Jonathan Mattingly. That decision was immediate, unprecedented, and responsive to the concerns we heard from you and our authors. At the same time, we have contractual obligations and must continue to respect the terms of our agreements with our client publishers.

The judgment each of us renders about particular books is inherently subjective. Discussing how we perceive various works is one of the joys of our business. When we share an enthusiastic consensus about a title, we are a positive and powerful force in the culture. When we allow our judgment to dwell on the books we dislike, we distract ourselves from our primary purpose as a publisher – to champion the books we believe in and love.

A few years ago, when we were considering a book project by an esteemed political leader, she described the story of America as, “Two steps forward, one step back.” For those who think some of our titles are a step backward, let’s appreciate the many Simon & Schuster books that are taking us two steps forward. Let’s also acknowledge that we don’t agree on which titles are taking us forward and backward! That tension – that push and pull – is a healthy part of the dialectic provided by classically liberal publishing companies.

Over the last year we have done much work to make Simon & Schuster a more open and inclusive workplace. We remain focused on how we can change our culture for the better and improve our publishing programs. The conversations we’ve been having will help us evolve as a company. The pace of change may not be as fast as some of you would like, but we remain committed to progress.

Thank you for sharing your concerns with me and your managers.

Sincerely,

Jonathan

And read the full letter from the Simon & Schuster employees below.

A statement from the workforce of S&S:

The events of the past week have affirmed that 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.

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.

Long before his Vice Presidency, Mike Pence made a career out of discriminating against marginalized groups and denying resources to BIPOC and LGBTQA+ communities. From advocating for legalized discrimination against LGBTQ+ people, to eroding the teaching of science in favor of Christian theology in public-funded schools, to ending energy efficiency programs, to pushing for guns to be in schools and cars, to taking away funding for and shutting down clinics treating HIV patients, to promoting conversion therapy, to denying bodily autonomy to pregnant people, to abandoning a nation in crisis as the coronavirus ran rampant and killed more than half a million Americans. Mike Pence has literal and figurative blood on his hands. We demand you cancel Mike Pence’s book deal.

Even though S&S cancelled its distribution of the book by white supremacist and murderer Jonathan Mattingly, by choosing to continue to distribute Post Hill Press, whose titles include Matt Gaetz’s racist manifesto, the company openly supports and normalizes violence against minors, Black women, and all Black people by individuals and the state. This is unacceptable in light of the recent murders of Daunte Wright, Peyton Ham, Adam Toledo, and countless others, over the centuries of harm caused by people in positions of power. We demand you drop all distribution ties with Post Hill Press.

Rehabilitating fascists is antithetical to the statements released by Simon & Schuster in support of AAPI/Black lives. It puts all of our BIPOC, women, LGBTQ+, disabled, neurodivergent, immigrant, working class employees, and the greater bookseller/reviewer/reading community in immediate and long term danger and dismisses the generations of violence that have contributed to our direct oppression. Your attempts to silence us by refusing to answer questions at the town hall or even dedicate a full hour to this matter, will not work. As the employees who are the reason that Simon & Schuster exists, we demand the following:

1. Cancel the two-book deal with Mike Pence and do not sign any more book deals with former members of the Trump administration.
2. End Simon & Schuster’s distribution deal with Post Hill Press.
3. Commit to ongoing reevaluations of all clients, authors, distribution deals, and all other financial commitments that promote white supremacist content and/or harm the aforementioned marginalized communities.

We impart to you the sad and unfortunate truth that we are actively making history right now: people will look back on this one day, and see that through our complicity, we chose to be on what is clearly the wrong side of justice.