BuzzFeed just quit Donald Trump like a smoking habit. No patch. No gum. The site is going cold turkey.
Here’s the key sentence in a Monday memo from BuzzFeed chief executive Jonah Peretti to his staff: “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.”
BuzzFeed will, of course, continue to cover the presumptive Republican presidential nominee. But it said its advertising department has terminated an agreement with the Republican National Committee that would have included ads for the party’s presidential ticket in the fall.
More from Peretti:
The Trump campaign is directly opposed to the freedoms of our employees in the United States and around the world and, in some cases, such as his proposed ban on international travel for Muslims, would make it impossible for our employees to do their jobs.
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.
We certainly don’t like to turn away revenue that funds all the important work we do across the company. However, in some cases, we must make business exceptions.
Trump has proposed a temporary ban on foreign Muslims entering the United States. Under his plan, a Muslim journalist from another country who works for BuzzFeed presumably would be unable to report in the United States.
Republican National Committee communications director Sean Spicer told CNN’s Brian Stelter that the party never planned to advertise on BuzzFeed, anyway.
BuzzFeed’s coverage of Trump, which the company said will not change, has been already highly critical. In December, editor Ben Smith gave his blessing for reporters to refer to the business mogul as a “mendacious racist,” saying such a description is factual.
As striking a step as this is for a media operation, it is hardly without precedent.The Huffington Post in January began appending an editor’s note to articles about Donald Trump. The note states, “Donald Trump regularly incites political violence and is a serial liar, rampant xenophobe, racist, misogynist and birther who has repeatedly pledged to ban all Muslims — 1.6 billion members of an entire religion — from entering the U.S.”
And on the business side, NBC, ESPN and Univision previously ended financial partnerships with Trump that involved his beauty pageants and golf tournaments at his courses.
Some non-media companies are reportedly reconsidering their business relationships with the GOP, too, now that Trump is the party’s standard-bearer. NPR reported last month that Trump’s impending nomination is making it harder for organizers of the Republican National Convention to secure corporate sponsors.
BuzzFeed — or any other company that refuses to do business with Trump — risks the appearance of a partisan bias with the move. But considering its existing editorial position that Trump is indisputably racist, BuzzFeed likely did not have to worry about shattering a neutral image.
What’s more, CNN reported last month that “many industry observers and some staff believe that BuzzFeed will eventually curtail or even jettison its news division in order to focus on more profitable revenue streams.”
If such a move is indeed in BuzzFeed’s future, the company might be less motivated to foster good relations with both parties.