Simon & Schuster Cancels Plans for Senator Hawley’s 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.

Mr. Hawley, a Missouri Republican and Trump ally, has been criticized for challenging the results and accused of helping incite the mob that stormed the Capitol on Wednesday. His book, “The Tyranny of Big Tech,” was scheduled to be published in June.

“We did not come to this decision lightly,” Simon & Schuster said in a statement. “As a publisher it will always be our mission to amplify a variety of voices and viewpoints: At the same time we take seriously our larger public responsibility as citizens, and cannot support Senator Hawley after his role in what became a dangerous threat.”

In a statement posted to Twitter, Mr. Hawley said that the cancellation of his book was an affront to the First Amendment.

“This could not be more Orwellian,” he said. “Simon & Schuster is canceling my contract because I was representing my constituents, leading a debate on the Senate floor on voter integrity, which they have now decided to redefine as sedition.”

The cancellation signaled the pitfalls that mainstream publishers face as they attempt to straddle the partisan divide in a hyper-polarized and volatile political environment. The biggest commercial publishers have long released works by both Democrats and Republicans, and most have dedicated imprints for works by politicians and pundits on the right. But some publishing professionals wondered if the violence at the Capitol would make it untenable for them to work with conservative authors who have questioned the legitimacy of the election or taken other incendiary positions.

In the past four years, a number of people from Mr. Trump’s inner circle have gotten book deals. Macmillan published a memoir by Sarah Huckabee Sanders. Donald Trump Jr., the president’s eldest son, released a book with Hachette and self-published another.

Simon & Schuster, one of the “Big Five” book publishers in the United States, which Penguin Random House agreed to buy in November, has released several major political books in recent years, including “Too Much and Never Enough,” by Mary L. Trump, a niece of the president; “Rage,” by Bob Woodward; and “The Room Where It Happened,” by John Bolton, a former national security adviser in the Trump administration. It has also published conservative firebrands like Sean Hannity and Tucker Carlson.

The Capitol rampage further complicated the already fraught question of whether or not publishers would release a memoir by President Trump.

During most election cycles, publishers are quick to snap up books from the former president and first lady and from former administration officials. But the escalation of the rhetoric from the president and some of his supporters in recent weeks has likely changed the calculus for editors and publishers who are wary of provoking a backlash from readers and employees.

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Simon & Schuster has been subject to public pressure campaigns in the past when it has worked with controversial authors. In 2017, it called off its planned publication of a book by Milo Yiannopoulos, the right-wing commentator, after standing by him through weeks of criticism of the deal.

Last year, another member of the Big Five, Hachette, canceled plans to publish a book by Woody Allen after sustained pressure that included an employee walkout and condemnation from Ronan Farrow, Mr. Allen’s son, who had been published by Hachette. The book was later released by Arcade Publishing, an imprint of the independent publisher Skyhorse, which has also published books by the pro-Trump legal scholar Alan Dershowitz.

The subject of Mr. Hawley’s book, which was already available for preorder on Amazon and other retailers, is not about the election or Mr. Trump, but about technology corporations like Google, Facebook and Amazon. Its cancellation was remarkably swift and raised questions about how publishers will approach future books by conservatives who have supported Mr. Trump’s efforts to invalidate the election.

It’s unclear if Mr. Hawley will have to return his book advance, or whether Simon & Schuster will forfeit it. After the company canceled Mr. Yiannopoulos’s book, he sued Simon & Schuster for alleged breach of contract but later dropped the suit. It also remains to be seen whether Mr. Hawley will seek another publisher or self-publish the book.

Some executives argued that publishers should continue to publish authors from across the political spectrum, including pro-Trump factions within the conservative movement that are currently at odds with Republicans who have opposed the president.

“There is a gigantic amount of disagreement on the right, and that all needs to be sorted out,” said Adrian Zackheim, the president and publisher of Portfolio and Sentinel, Penguin Random House imprints. “There are many voices that deserve to be heard, not just a certain set.”

Rebukes on Twitter aimed at Simon & Schuster for its plans to publish the book came from several writers and at least one Simon & Schuster author. But the conservative publisher Regnery, which released a book in the fall by Senator Ted Cruz, another leader of the push to overturn the election results, did not appear to be facing similar pressure.

Tom Spence, Regnery’s president and publisher, said the company did not have any further deals with Mr. Cruz at the moment but would work with him again. Mr. Spence also said that if Simon & Schuster canceled Mr. Hawley’s book deal, “We would be interested.”

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