On Wednesday, Missouri Republican Josh Hawley called a vote to object to Joe Biden’s election victory, raised a fist to Trump supporters outside the Capitol, and fundraised on a “charge to fight for free and fair elections” while a mob was inside the Capitol violently living out his theatrical effort to stop the peaceful transfer of power. On Thursday, Simon & Schuster canceled the June publication of Hawley’s forthcoming book, The Tyranny of Big Tech.
“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 publisher, one of the “big five” remaining in the U.S., said in a statement. “We did not come to this decision lightly. 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.”
Hawley described the move taken by a private company as “Orwellian,” a “direct assault on the First Amendment,” and an example of “cancel culture.”
The decision is more notable for what it says about the state of publishing after Donald Trump than for what it means as a rebuke of Hawley, a rising star in conservative politics. While major publishers have long released ghostwritten campaign books and retrospective works from politicians on both sides of the aisle, the Republican Party’s severe lurch rightward over the past decade has made this balance ever more untenable. (Within publishing companies themselves, there has also been a limited reckoning about how systemic racism and a severe lack of diversity have affected their output.) And, as the New York Times reports, “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.”
With Hawley dropped from the schedule, the conversation over publishing books from the Trump camp — including ones “written” by the president himself — will become more relevant in the coming months. Although a memoir from Trump would have tremendous appeal in an industry in which sales are anchored by a shortlist of huge best sellers, it’s possible there may no longer be an appetite within the big publishing houses, even if a pre-political Trump has already published with Simon & Schuster, HarperCollins, and Penguin Random House. In a recent interview with The New Yorker, the new head of Simon & Schuster, Dana Canedy, said, “I do think there has to be a fine line between books that inform the reader about different perspectives, that maybe open them up to a way of thinking about the world or an issue in ways that they haven’t, and that work that’s dangerous or somehow doesn’t add public value, if you will.”
Waste no remorse on Hawley for this small repercussion, however. Speaking with the New York Times, the president of the conservative publisher Regnery said “we would be interested” in Hawley’s book about the perceived political biases of big tech. This fall, Regnery published a best seller by Ted Cruz, the senator who helped Hawley organize Wednesday’s show vote that became all too real.