Josh Hawley Probably Has No Case, And He Hasn't Been 'Silenced'
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January 9, 2021

As I'm sure you know, Simon & Schuster has canceled plans to publish Josh Hawley's forthcoming book.

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

... His book, “The Tyranny of Big Tech,” was scheduled to be published in June.

I'm sure you also know that Hawley self-righteously denounced the cancellation, suggesting that privately owned publishers have a constitutional obligation to publish certain books, an idea he knows is wrong, though he also knows that the Trumpist voters he wants in the 2024 presidential election don't know it.

But the publishing newsletter Publishers Lunch tells us that he probably doesn't have a case.

While we do not [have] any direct knowledge of Hawley's publishing contract, when PL reported on publishers' morality clauses two years ago, we found that Simon & Schuster's boilerplate language would provide broad latitude in a situation like this. That wording notes that if an author "... is otherwise accused of libel, slander, or defamatory conduct, or any other conduct that subjects, or could be reasonably anticipated to subject Author or Publisher to ridicule, contempt, scorn, hatred, or censure by the general public or which is likely to materially diminish the sales of the Work," the publisher has the option of both terminating the contract and recovering any unrecouped funds. That language also includes a provision stating that the termination option "shall be exercised, or not, in the Publisher’s sole discretion at any time during or after the occurrence of any or all of the foregoing."

Before morality clauses became widespread, Simon & Schuster was sued by provocateur Milo Yiannopoulos when they cancelled his book. Yiannopoulos eventually withdrew his suit. In pre-trial filings, S&S's attorneys cited extensive case law showing that "courts interpreting New York law have consistently concluded that publishing agreements similar to the Agreement here provide publishers with significant discretion to terminate based on their subjective judgment."

Whatever you think of such clauses, Hawley probably signed a contract that contained one, and as a prominent person with a good-paying day job, he had a hell of a lot more leverage in his relationship with the people who were paying him than a desperately poor service worker who's taken a minimum-wage job under lousy working conditions because it's all that's available. Right-wingers regard someone in the latter position as just another free citizen who has no right to complain about the agreed-upon terms of a contract. So that's how I feel about Hawley.

But is Hawley being silenced? I look at the lists of authors currently being published without incident by Regnery (Ted Cruz, Carter Page, Diamond & Silk, Mollie Hemingway), Encounter (Devin Nunes, Sidney Powell, Betsy McCaughey, Andrew McCarthy), Broadside (Ben Shapiro, Tomi Lahren, Lou Dobbs, Dinesh D'Souza), and other right-wing publishers, and I have no doubt whatsoever that Hawley will find another publisher. And if he doesn't, well, tough: That's the free market.

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