Weeks after organizers of the podcast industry’s largest conference attacked the most listened-to conservative podcast host and apologized to attendees of its Dallas event for selling space to his company, Podcast Movement issued an apology to Ben Shapiro late Thursday after it became clear the controversy surrounding its move was not subsiding.
“We’re continuing to evaluate our policies guiding social media and events with inclusivity, diversity and respect for all. We have to start by sincerely apologizing to Mr. Shapiro for our reaction when he visited a booth we sold his company. That wasn’t right,” Podcast Movement organizers said in a Twitter post. “Podcast Movement began in 2014, with four podcasters who had an idea to create a vibrant community that was for podcasters, by podcasters. We’re still those people with the same idea, and recognize there’s work to do as we grow. We are now looking to move forward, as we focus on that original mission from 2014 -- being a hub for podcasting events, resources, news, and thought leadership.”
The apology came 48 hours after Cumulus Media announced it was “dissociating” with Podcast Movement and scrapping sponsorship plans for next year’s events. The move by Cumulus was not surprising as it sells advertising for The Daily Wire and it is home to conservative podcasters like Dan Bongino and Mark Levin. But it nevertheless demonstrated that the debate over what occurred was not subsiding. “We were dismayed and disappointed by Podcast Movement’s handling of the reaction to our partner, top podcaster, and conservative talk leader Ben Shapiro’s mere presence at Podcast Movement,” Cumulus said.
The controversy began last month with the drop-in by Shapiro at Podcast Movement’s Dallas conference. Several podcasters in attendance jumped on social media to complain about the conservative viewpoints Shapiro shares on his show. Podcast Movement organizers responded by calling their decision to sell The Daily Wire booth space a “mistake.” They also issued an apology to those offended by their move selling exhibit space to The Daily Wire and for allowing Shapiro on the show floor, despite not being registered for the event.
Podcast Movement said the “dangerous nature” of The Daily Wire’s content was “overlooked” during the conference’s planning stages. “Those of you who called this ‘unacceptable’ are right,” the organization’s since-deleted statement said.
The turnaround by conference organizers was welcome by Daily Wire co-CEO Jeremy Boreing who has criticized Podcast Movement for its “bigotry” against conservatives and its failure to publicly apologize for its “hateful comments” about Shapiro and The Daily Wire.
“People rarely admit when they do wrong, particularly on the left where every cultural indicator reinforces your error,” said Boreing in a Twitter post late Thursday. “Podcast Movement did the right thing with this apology.” Boreing said Podcast Movement President Dan Franks also called him to make clear that the conference’s treatment of Shapiro was unacceptable.
Podcast Movement is still likely to face friction over the brouhaha as reaction to its apology on social media was mixed at best.
“A culture of learning and understanding and forgiving mistakes is one I'm all about. Good on you guys,” said one person on Twitter.
But Podcast Movement likely still has some work to do with other conservatives. “There’s no coming back from this. The quickness with which you misjudged the situation and discrimination toward conservative thought makes you irredeemable. Hope you enjoyed your ride since 2014 because it’s over,” said another commenter.
Shapiro has the largest conservative podcast. Among the shows measured by Podtrac, Shapiro had the fifth most listened-to podcast during July. And The Daily Wire was the sixth-largest publisher with a unique U.S. monthly audience of 7.3 million and global downloads and streams totaling 72 million.