News and entertainment site BuzzFeed has pulled out of a $1.3 million advertising deal with the RNC over Donald Trump's racist rhetoric, which is pretty much unprecedented for a political news site to do.
In an email to staff on Monday, BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti explained that in April, the RNC and BuzzFeed signed an agreement to "spend a significant amount on political advertisements slated to run during the Fall election cycle." But since Trump became the nominee his campaign has proven themselves to be "directly opposed to the freedoms of our employees in the United States," because of proposed bans on Muslim immigration and comments about descendants of immigrants, among other policies.
"We don't need to and do not expect to agree with the positions or values of all our advertisers. And as you know, there is a wall between our business and editorial operations. This decision to cancel this ad buy will have no influence on our continuing coverage of the campaign," Peretti said in the memo, a copy of which was obtained by POLITICO.
"We certainly don't like to turn away revenue that funds all the important work we do across the company," Peretti wrote. "However, in some cases we must make business exceptions: we don't run cigarette ads because they are hazardous to our health, and we won't accept Trump ads for the exact same reason."
In a follow up email, BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith said the decision was from the business side and would not affect coverage of the Trump campaign "This was Jonah’s call, and the prerogative of a publisher,” Smith wrote.
BuzzFeed has had an at times contentious relationship with the Trump campaign, with their reporters being denied credentials or general entry to Trump rallies and being directly targeted by the campaign and Trump himself. Reporters at the site told POLITICO that the decision likely won't change their relationships with the campaign, which they described as already strained.
It's also far from the first time the site has taken a position on a topic. In early 2012, BuzzFeed blacked out parts of their site in solidarity with the protest against the Stop Online Piracy Act. Following the Supreme Court ruling in 2015 which legalized same sex marriage, the site changed its logo to the rainbow flag colors, which are a symbol of the gay pride movement. Smith said at the time: "We firmly believe that for a number of issues, including civil rights, women’s rights, anti-racism, and LGBT equality, there are not two sides."
Let's understand that political ad money is basically free cash for news outlets, and those pockets get deeper and deeper every election cycle. Given the precarious state of digital news sites in 2016, turning down a cool million plus seems suicidal, but BuzzFeed apparently says they can turn down the RNC's ad money.
But let's face it, what BuzzFeed is really risking is the wrath of the Republican Party for their news and editorial division, and I'm pretty sure that if it was difficult for BuzzFeed to get news from the Trump camp before, it's going to be impossible now.
On the other hand, good for BuzzFeed for not taking money directly from the scuzzballs.