Rolling Stone is punching back after a blog post claimed that the magazine “sold out” to President Trump and the Saudis under its owner Jay Penske led to calls for a boycott.
The story, by “The Hill Reporter” dubbed “The Demise of Rolling Stone: How A Legendary Magazine Sold Out to Trump and the Saudis,” ignited calls across the Twitterverse to #BoycottRollingStone on Friday in part by resurfacing old information about magazine’s parent company’s ties to the Saudis.
The story also blasted the Penske Media CEO for his ties to Trump, although it appeared to conflate the media mogul with his auto-racing magnate dad, Roger Penske.
“Jay is a high-profile GOP donor who fired tenured and experienced journalists, then hired hacks to write tabloid level pieces that leaned so far to the right, he was awarded a Presidential Medal from the former guy himself,” the post said.
In fact, it was the elder Penske who received the Presidential Medal of Freedom in 2019. The younger Penske, by contrast, helped throw a 2016 election viewing party with high-profile supporters of Hillary Clinton, according to WWD.
Rolling Stone’s rebuttal, however, focused solely on The Hill Reporter’s claims that a yet-to-be-published piece on MeidasTouch, a left-leaning political action committee focused on stopping Trump’s reelection, was politically motivated.
“The attacks being made against Rolling Stone’s journalistic integrity and our reporter are entirely unfounded and false,” said Brooke Jaffe, a spokeswoman for Rolling Stone parent Penske Media Corp. “Rolling Stone’s journalists pursue the truth and hold power to account without input from anyone outside our editorial staff. Any notion that Rolling Stone is pro-Trump is demonstrably false, as a review of our coverage would reveal. No tactics will persuade us from pursuing our core mission: to deliver the news responsibly to our audience.”
A source said The Hill Reporter story by Tara Dubin kicked off after award-winning freelance journalist Seth Hettena — who has bylines in The New York Times and New Republic and who wrote an incisive piece for the glossy last year on Blackwater founder Erik Prince — reached out to MeidasTouch for commentary on his story.
The group asked for an extension to respond, which was granted it. But instead of providing a statement to the reporter, MeidasTouch took to Twitter, posting a lengthy reply, calling the story “defamatory.”
In making the case that Rolling Stone is conducting a “smear campaign” against the PAC, Dubin rehashed a subject that has become touchy since the gruesome murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi in October 2018.
In February 2018, Penske Media — which also owns Variety, Women’s Wear Daily and The Hollywood Reporter — received a $200 million investment by a Saudi Arabian public fund.
The funding came at a time when the fund was making big investments in media and entertainment firms, but many beneficiaries returned the funds amid questions about Khashoggi’s death following his trip to the Saudi consulate in Istanbul. Penske has remained silent on the investment stake, even after US intelligence reports confirmed that Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman himself ordered the reporter’s execution.
The blog post made the rounds on Twitter with some users retweeting an image from Dubin’s article, which shows Roger Penske receiving the medal of honor from Trump in 2019, with his son, Jay, watching in the background.
Democratic writer and editor Grant Stern tweeted, “Rolling Stone used to be the home of Hunter S. Thompson, now people are tweeting #BoycottRollingStone after their ties to Trump and the Saudis have been exposed.”
Even “Pulp Fiction” actress Rosanna Arquette jumped in on the call to action, tweeting simply: “#BoycottRollingStone,” as the hashtag began to take off going into the weekend.