The Atlantic fired conservative writer Kevin Williamson on Thursday over his 4-year-old comments that women who obtain abortions should be prosecuted for murder.
Williamson’s position is atypical for conservatives—who typically hold that women are the second victim of abortion—but his termination for it still represents a startling after-the-fact litmus test for one of the nation’s most prominent magazines.
The Atlantic Editor-in-Chief Jeffrey Goldberg fired Williamson after left-wing group Media Matters dug up a September 2014 podcast where Williamson reiterated his belief, first articulated in a single tweet, that women who obtain abortions should be prosecuted for murder. Hanging was the conservative writer’s preferred form of capital punishment because “if the state is going to do violence, let’s make it violence,” Williamson said.
Williamson was “kind of squishy on capital punishment in general” and his larger point was women should be prosecuted for killing their unborn children, just as they would be for killing their already-born children, he noted in the same podcast.
Liberal journalists used the Media Matters post to demand Goldberg fire Williamson. “By keeping him on at @TheAtlantic, @JeffreyGoldberg is making clear he thinks ‘killing women’ is an acceptable part of political discourse,” The Guardian columnist Jessica Valenti claimed.
Goldberg caved. In an internal email on Thursday, The Atlantic editor blasted Williamson’s “callous and violent” language, which he said was contrary to the “values of our workplace” and insisted the issue was not “Kevin’s views on abortion.”
“Kevin is a gifted writer, and he has been nothing but professional in all of our interactions,” Goldberg wrote. “But I have come to the conclusion that The Atlantic is not the best fit for his talents, and so we are parting ways.”
Media Matters President Angelo Carusone cited Williamson’s firing as proof the left-wing group is a “potent and effective force.” He’s right.
Media Matters is behind two other ongoing media firestorms.
The first is over a promotional segment by Sinclair Broadcast Group warning against “fake news” and dishonest journalism from national media outlets. Liberal commentators accused Sinclair of being unfairly pro-President Donald Trump in its coverage of the commander in chief.
Media Matters employees spent hundreds of hours monitoring Sinclair broadcasts and then clipping and circulating videos of Sinclair’s anchors reading the promotional script, Carusone later bragged. The promo went viral after Deadspin packaged the clips to show dozens of anchors reading the same script—a point-making stunt comedian Conan O’Brien has relied on for years.
— James Michael Sama (@JamesMSama) April 2, 2018
Media Matters played a key role in boycotts against Fox News host Laura Ingraham, after she sent a tweet knocking Parkland student David Hogg for complaining about colleges that rejected his applications. Ingraham offered Hogg an apology, which he rejected.
Media Matters quickly teamed up with Hogg to circulate lists of Ingraham’s advertisers and encourage liberals to put pressure on “The Ingraham Angle” advertisers. Fox News stood by Ingraham but at the cost of over a dozen advertisers boycotting her show.
This isn’t new.
Media Matters has been waging censorship campaigns against right-of-center voices for years. The group’s left-wing donors, including billionaire George Soros, have allowed it to wage all-out war against conservatives for the better part of a decade.
Fox News fired former hosts Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly after advertisers fled their shows under pressure from Media Matters. Sean Hannity has faced ongoing boycotts since May 2017, as part of a coordinated campaign meant to take down the pro-Trump Fox News host.
Other left-wing groups are waging similar battles against the right’s voices in the media.
Two left-wing gun control groups, Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense and Everytown for Gun Safety, tried to pressure Amazon, Apple and Google into banning National Rifle Association media arm NRATV from their streaming platforms. So far, those efforts have been unsuccessful.
Another activist group, Sleeping Giants, targeted Breitbart News’ advertisers with overwhelming success: 90 percent of advertisers fled Breitbart in just two months, and the website has continued bleeding advertisers since then.
If Williamson’s firing is any indication, the censorship campaign isn’t going to stop with Fox News and Breitbart.
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