August 5, 2021

DCTRS

Damascus Center for Theoretical and Civil Rights Studies

Publisher cancels Josh Hawley’s book; senator threatens suit

Simon & Schuster has canceled its plans to publish a book by Sen. Josh Hawley, a Missouri Republican who sought to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election both before and after a pro-Trump mob attacked the Capitol building on Wednesday.

An hour after the announcement was made Thursday, Hawley responded with a Twitter statement calling the move “Orwellian,” denouncing “cancel culture” and concluding, “We’ll see you in court!”

Hawley, 41, was the first senator to object to the certification of the electoral vote for President-elect Joe Biden in key states — a typically ceremonial process that morphed into an hours-long occupation culminating in the death of four people.

His book, “The Tyranny of Big Tech,” was scheduled for publication in June. The company decided to drop the book in the wake of growing outrage on social media.

“After witnessing the disturbing, deadly insurrection that took place on Wednesday in Washington, D.C, Simon & Schuster has decided to cancel publication of Senator Josh Hawley’s forthcoming book,” the company said in a statement emailed by spokesperson Adam Rothberg.

“We did not come to this decision lightly,” the statement continued. “As a publisher it will always be our mission to amplify a variety of voices and viewpoints: at the same time we take seriously our larger public responsibility as citizens, and cannot support Senator Hawley after his role in what became a dangerous threat to our democracy and freedom.”

Hawley responded on Twitter with “my statement on the woke mob” at Simon & Schuster. “This could not be more Orwellian,” he wrote. “Simon & Schuster is canceling my contract because I was representing my constituents, leading a debate on the Senate floor on voter integrity, which they have now decided to redefine as sedition. Let me be clear, this is not just a contract dispute. It’s a direct assault on the First Amendment. Only approved speech can now be published. This is the Left looking to cancel everyone they don’t approve of. I will fight this cancel culture with everything I have. We’ll see you in court.”

The publisher, which was recently acquired by Penguin Random House for $2 billion, has published several major bestsellers about the Trump administration from insiders ranging from niece Mary Trump to former Trump national security advisor John Bolton.

S&S has nullified the contract of a right-wing firebrand before, declining to publish a book by Milo Yiannopoulos in 2017 in the wake of his controversial comments on pedophilia. Yiannopoulos sued S&S but dropped the lawsuit in 2018.

Publishers have increasingly included morality clauses in their contracts in recent years, and though it did not apply in their defense against Yiannopoulos, it may bring to bear on any suit brought by Hawley. The senator’s office has not yet responded to a request to clarify his plans.

A half hour after Hawley’s tweet, Simon & Schuster responded, “We are confident that we are acting fully within our contractual rights to cancel publication of Josh Hawley’s THE TYRANNY OF BIG TECH.”

Rep. Ted Lieu of Torrance also replied to Hawley’s statement on Twitter, adding, “FYI the First Amendment applies to government officials like you and me. It doesn’t apply to private sector companies like Simon & Schuster.”

The most recent major publisher to drop a book already scheduled for publication was Little, Brown, which canceled its plans for Woody Allen’s memoir, “Apropos of Nothing,” in March.

Following the occupation on Wednesday, readers, booksellers and authors took to social media, signaling that Hawley continued to repeat baseless allegations of electoral malfeasance even after Trump supporters stormed into the Capitol, driving him and his colleagues off the Senate floor.

In a tweet, Maris Kreizman, who hosts the literary podcast the Maris Review, criticized “the complicity of the publishing industry in all of this.”

Josh Cook, co-owner of Porter Square Books, an independent bookshop in Cambridge, was among those who called for the company to drop the book. He lauded the decision. “If we want to see a society that is free of white supremacy, free of racism, free of fascism, we can’t give those ideologies and the people who espouse them platforms and revenue streams, and that’s what publishing a book does,” said Cook. “So I’m glad Simon & Schuster came around to the correct decision. Obviously, I wish they hadn’t supported him in the first place. And I hope they continue to make this correct decision as other proponents of white supremacy and fascism approach them with pitches.”