Rolling Stone Has Been Accused of Backing Donald Trump and Taking Saudi Funds


Apr. 2 2021, Published 9:59 a.m. ET

Rolling Stone Magazine Cover
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Although magazines don't have the power they once did, Rolling Stone remains a publication that most people have heard of.  Now, calls are growing online to boycott the magazine, but many who are seeing the new trending topic are unclear about why the movement to boycott Rolling Stone exists. 

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Why are people boycotting Rolling Stone?

The calls to boycott Rolling Stone came in the wake of a piece published by The Hill Reporter, a left-leaning online magazine that covers politics. The report suggests that, in recent years, the magazine has taken a pronounced rightward tilt in part as a result of a change in ownership. The report also suggests that the magazine is now funded in part by the Saudi Arabian government. 

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The article claims that its investigation into Rolling Stone stems from an accusation made by MeidasTouch, a left-leaning political action committee that claims that Seth Hettena, a freelance journalist who contributes to Rolling Stone, reached out to the PAC with accusations against the organization. The Hill Reporter claims that Hettena's goal was to defame them because the group is seen as a threat to Republicans. 

Who owns Rolling Stone?

The calls to boycott Rolling Stone have also focused on the magazine's relatively new owners, the Penske Media Corporation. Penske is owned by Jay Penske, the son of Roger Penske. Roger was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by Donald Trump in 2019, and his son was present for the ceremony. Roger has been active in Republican politics, which is one of the reasons that The Hill Reporter claims that Rolling Stone has now been corrupted. 

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The Hill Reporter also points out the questions that have been raised in recent years over a $200 million investment that the Penske Media Corporation received from the Saudi Arabian government. In the wake of Jamal Khashoggi's murder at the hands of the Saudi government, there are many who wonder why Jay has not cut ties with the government, especially since he's running a media organization. 

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It's unclear whether Rolling Stone has been compromised.

Although the Penske family certainly has ties to some questionable people, it's unclear whether Rolling Stone's journalism has actually been impacted by this change in leadership. The Hill Reporter claims that Seth is a prime example of the magazine's new rightward leanings, but he has published articles that were critical of Erik Prince and Blackwater, and even wrote an entire book about Donald Trump's long-running connections to Russia. 

Seth may not be a left-leaning journalist, but his reporting tends to be objective, and it seems that the work he's published in Rolling Stone has tended to be rigorously fact checked. Although he's not a liberal ally, that doesn't necessarily make him an enemy. 

What's more, Rolling Stone has continued to publish articles that are critical of Republican politicians, including a recent in-depth explainer on the impacts of Georgia's new restrictive voting laws. Rolling Stone isn't designed to help get Democrats elected, but the argument that it deserves to be boycotted because of the sins of its owners may seem like an overreaction to some. After all, Jeff Bezos still owns The Washington Post

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