Salem Media Group’s RedState: Jeff Sessions Not ‘the Brightest Person in the Senate’

Drew Angerer/Getty Images
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

RedState managing editor Leon H. Wolf blasted stalwart conservative senator Jeff Sessions today, writing that Sessions “has never really been accused of being the brightest person in the Senate.”

Sessions, who is widely esteemed as the Senate’s populist elder statesman and champion of working class Americans, came under Wolf’s attack because of reports that the Alabama senator “appears set to endorse Donald Trump.”

In the post, derisively titled “Don’t Worry, Jeff Sessions, Trump Will Still Respect You in the Morning,” Wolf acknowledges that Sessions is the country’s definitive principled leader on the issue of illegal immigration, but he uses reports of the Trump endorsement to attack the Senator’s intelligence.

The crux of Wolf’s argument is his belief that the GOP front-runner isn’t legitimately tough on illegal immigration, despite the fact that Trump launched his presidential campaign by highlighting the problem, made it the basis for his first policy position paper (crafted under the consultation of Sessions), and rocketed to the top of the polls due in large part to his unflinching stance on this issue despite intense media criticism.

Wolf writes (emphasis in original):

A lot of Trump’s hardcore supporters can be expected to stick with Trump regardless of how many times he betrays them. Let’s be honest, they aren’t in it for any policy in particular, they are just attracted to the Trump cult of personality. Sessions, however, allegedly does believe in some issues, and should be expected to have at least noticed that Trump has pulled a complete 180 in the last two weeks.

“But not to worry, Jeff,” Wolf dismissively closes his article. “I’m sure Trump will still respect you in the morning, and will not at all turn his back on your issue once he gets elected.”

Since its acquisition by Salem Communications (now Salem Media Group) in January 2014, RedState has seen a decline in its already diminishing relevance and web traffic. Today, RedState’s Alexa traffic ranking is 3,417 in the United States. (Breitbart’s Alexa ranking, for the sake of comparison, is 247.)

On January 13, 2014 – the day Salem acquired RedState – their stock closed at $8.95. Today, Salem Media Group’s stock closed at $3.75. That roughly $5 decline in stock price, coupled with Salem’s outstanding shares reported between 24.26 to 25.46 million, means that the company has lost approximately $125 million in value since its acquisition of the Eagle Publishing Regnery/Human Events/RedState assets.

RedState has long been associated with conservative commentator Erick Erickson, who even boasted that “RedState is me and I am RedState” in the statement he issued when he stepped down as the site’s editor-in-chief last October.

Erick Erickson specifically named Wolf as his successor, referring to the little-known writer as RedState’s “house snapping turtle.”

“Once he latches on to something, he does not let go until he gets resolution or hears thunder. But rarely has he been wrong,” Erickson said of Wolf.

One instance in which Erickson’s editors were clearly wrong was the use of an obviously fake image of Sarah Palin for a RedState front page story in July 2013 that was critical of the former Alaska governor. Despite being informed repeatedly that the image was a fake, RedState’s editors declined to take it down – and even went so far as to mock the conservative readers asking for its removal. Erickson himself dismissed these readers – despite being shown evidence that the photo was a fake clearly meant to demean Palin by showing her face photoshopped onto the body of a woman sitting on Santa’s lap in a low-cut blouse.

RedState's photoshopped image side-by-side with the real image.

RedState’s photoshopped image side-by-side with the real image.

This incident from 2013 was largely forgotten until Bristol Palin brought it up again in an article on her Patheos blog in response to the news that Erickson revoked Trump’s invitation to last summer’s RedState Gathering on the grounds that he behaved badly to Megyn Kelly after the first Fox News GOP debate.

Erickson wrote, “I have rescinded my invitation to Mr. Trump. While I have tried to give him great latitude, his remark about Megyn Kelly was a bridge too far.”

After the younger Palin called out his double standard on sexism, Erickson issued a backhanded belated apology to Palin, but maintained that he “certainly meant no offense” in using the fake photo of the cleavage-revealing woman on Santa’s lap.

Wolf, on the other hand, responded with disdain and invective to Bristol Palin in a RedState article titled “Bristol Palin Allows No Good Deed to Go Unpunished,” in which he argued that the Alaska governor’s daughter showed ingratitude to RedState for its past support of her.

Bristol wrote in her reply to him:

What, do you ask, is the “good deed” that Wolf is talking about? He helpfully linked to an article in which RedState denounced David Letterman making a joke about raping one of us underage Palin daughters.

Gee, that was a tough ethical call there, RedState.

The RedState Gathering last summer also garnered negative media attention due to Erickson’s public disparagement of GOP candidate Dr. Ben Carson, whom he refused to invite to the event.

When asked for the reason for the Carson snub, Erickson alleged:

I was at two different events for military non-profits in the last year. They were non-profits that had asked Dr. Carson to speak about military veterans and the work he did with the disabled, and both times he spent the entire time talking about himself and his battle with the president, and it just struck me wrong.

Dr. Carson’s senior advisor, Armstrong Williams, called Erickson’s allegations “a smear and an outright lie.” He added, “I don’t know what Erickson’s motivations are–but there is something here far deeper than he didn’t like what he heard at two speeches.”

RedState’s snub of Carson and disinvite of Trump had no appreciable negative impact on either candidate’s campaigns.

In fact, Carson’s poll numbers increased following RedState’s attack on him, and Trump is still leading in the GOP primary field with a national poll average of 35.3 percent.


Note: This article has been updated to correct Wolf’s title at RedState, which is managing editor.


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