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Simon & Schuster cancels plans for Sen. Josh Hawley’s book

  • ASSOCIATED PRESS
                                Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks to reporters as he returned back to the Senate Chamber at the Capitol, early Thursday, in Washington.

    ASSOCIATED PRESS

    Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., speaks to reporters as he returned back to the Senate Chamber at the Capitol, early Thursday, in Washington.

Simon & Schuster said Thursday that it would cancel the publication of an upcoming book by Sen. Josh Hawley, one of several members of Congress who tried to overturn the results of the presidential election.

Hawley, R-Mo., an ally of President Donald Trump, has been criticized for challenging the election results and accused of helping incite the mob that stormed the Capitol on Wednesday. His book, “The Tyranny of Big Tech,” was scheduled to be published in June.

“We did not come to this decision lightly,” Simon & Schuster said in a statement. “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.”

The senator’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

The cancellation signaled the pitfalls that mainstream publishers face as they attempt to straddle the partisan divide in a hyperpolarized and volatile political environment. The biggest commercial publishers have long released works by both Democrats and Republicans, and most have dedicated imprints for works by politicians and pundits on the right. But some publishing professionals wondered if the violence at the Capitol would make it untenable for them to work with conservative authors who have questioned the legitimacy of the election or taken other incendiary positions.

In the past four years, a number of people from Trump’s inner circle have gotten book deals. Macmillan published a memoir by Sarah Huckabee Sanders, who served as White House press secretary under Trump. Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, released a book with Hachette.

Simon & Schuster, one of the “Big Five” book publishers in the United States, which Penguin Random House agreed to buy in November, has released several major political books in recent years, including “Too Much and Never Enough” by Mary Trump, a niece of the president, “Rage” by Bob Woodward, and “The Room Where It Happened” by John Bolton, a former national security adviser in the Trump administration. It has also published conservative firebrands like Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson.

The Capitol rampage further complicated the already fraught question of whether or not publishers would release a presidential memoir by Trump.

During most election cycles, publishers are quick to snap up books from former presidents, first ladies and administration officials. But the escalation of the rhetoric from the president and some of his supporters in recent weeks has likely changed the calculus for editors and publishers wary of provoking a backlash from readers and employees.

Simon & Schuster has been subject to public pressure campaigns in the past when it has worked with controversial authors. In 2017, it called off its planned publication of a book by Milo Yiannopoulos, a right-wing commentator, after standing by him through weeks of criticism of the deal.

Last year, another member of the Big Five, Hachette, canceled plans to publish a book by Woody Allen after sustained pressure that included an employee walkout and condemnation from Ronan Farrow, Allen’s son who had been published by Hachette. The book was later released by Arcade Publishing, an imprint of independent publisher Skyhorse, which has also published books by pro-Trump legal scholar Alan Dershowitz.

The subject of Hawley’s book, which was already available for preorder on Amazon and other retailers, is not about the election or Trump, but about technology corporations like Google, Facebook and Amazon. Its cancellation was remarkably swift and raised questions about how publishers will approach future books by conservatives who have supported Trump’s efforts to invalidate the election.

Rebukes on Twitter aimed at Simon & Schuster came from several writers and at least one Simon & Schuster author. But conservative publisher Regnery, which released a book in the fall by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, another leader of the push to overturn the election results, did not appear to be facing similar pressure.

Tom Spence, Regnery’s president and publisher, said the company did not have any further deals with Cruz at the moment but would work with him again. Spence also said that if Simon & Schuster canceled Hawley’s book deal, “We would be interested.”

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