Simon & Schuster in the US will proceed with the publication of two books by former vice-president Mike Pence, despite a petition from staff calling for its cancellation.
Staff also called for an end to the distribution deal the company has with conservative publisher, Post Hill Press, and said the company had "chosen complicity in perpetuating white supremacy". The news comes after the publisher bowed to pressure and cancelled the distribution of Jonathan Mattingly's book, an officer involved in the death of Breonna Taylor. Post Hill, a Tennessee-based company specialising in Christian and conservative political books, is publishing the title.
A staff petition has demanded all distribution ties should be dropped with the press. it reads: "Rehabilitating fascists is antithetical to the statements released by Simon & Schuster in support of AAPI/Black lives. It puts all of our BIPOC, women, LGBTQ+, disabled, neurodivergent, immigrant, working-class employees, and the greater bookseller/reviewer/reading community in immediate and long-term danger and dismisses the generations of violence that have contributed to our direct oppression. Your attempts to silence us by refusing to answer questions at the town hall or even dedicate a full hour to this matter, will not work."
The petition also calls for re-evaluations of "all clients, authors, distribution deals and all other financial commitments that promote white supremacist content and/or harm aforementioned marginalised communities".
Yesterday (Tuesday 20th April) S&S president and c.e.o. Jonathan Karp responded to the petition in a company-wide email. He said: "The question of which books we should publish is addressed by our editors and publishers on a daily basis. Our role is to find those authors and works that can shed light on our world — from first-time novelists to journalists, thought leaders, scientists, memoirists, personalities, and, yes, those who walk the halls of power. Regardless of where those authors sit on the ideological spectrum, or if they hold views that run counter to the belief systems held by some of us, we apply a rigorous standard to assure that in acquiring books, we will be bringing into the world works that provide new information or perspectives on events to which we otherwise might not have access.
"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."
Addressing the distribution cancellation of Mattingly's work, Karp said the decision was "immediate, unprecedented, and responsive to the concerns we heard from [the staff] and our authors".
He added: "Over the last year we have done much work to make Simon & Schuster a more open and inclusive workplace. We remain focused on how we can change our culture for the better and improve our publishing programmes. The conversations we’ve been having will help us evolve as a company. The pace of change may not be as fast as some of you would like, but we remain committed to progress."