The latest example of the new spirit of activism in publishing is seen at Simon & Schuster US where staff have launched a petition calling on the publisher to withdraw from a two-book deal with Donald Trump’s former Vice-President Mike Pence.  This follows staff complaints over its proposed distribution of a book by Jonathan Mattingly, a police officer involved in the death of Breoanna Taylor.  The latter is published by Post Hill Press with which S&S has a distribution deal.

The S&S petition reads:  “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.”

It continues: “Long before his Vice Presidency, Mike Pence made a career out of discriminating against marginalized groups and denying resources to BIPOC [black, indigenous and people of colour] and LGBTQA+  [lesbian, gay, bi-sexual, transgender, queer and non-heterosexual] communities. From advocating for legalized discrimination against LGBTQ+people, to eroding the teaching of science in favour 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.”

Although S&S has agreed not to distribute the Mattingly title, S&S staff are now calling for S&S to pull out of its distribution deal with Post Hill Press altogether.  But as Nasher went to press, the publisher was refusing to shift on the Pence title.

S&S president and CEO Jonathan Karp sa: “As a publisher in this polarised 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.”