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Ladies and gentlemen, my name is Jason Martin. I’m a 38-year-old single (hopefully not for much longer, but it’s in God’s hands) conservative male with some libertarian leanings. I was raised in first the Methodist, but later the Baptist church, and I was blessed with the two best parents anyone could ever hope to have.
One of those parents is a staunch Republican through and through, and always has been. The other never reveals any of his or her votes, but clearly leans left on many issues. My mom and dad have been happily married for 40 years, because politics doesn’t define them.
Similarly, it doesn’t define me.
Before I tell the true story of the Ben Strauss article that Politico unveiled today as part of its Friday magazine, first let me quickly say one other thing. On my search for a wife, I’ve done the dating app thing and I’ve gone through that heartache. I actually read the profiles, and if I see something that says, “If you voted for ______, swipe left,” I’m immediately turned off.
It doesn’t matter which side you’re on, and whether that blank says Trump, Obama, Sanders, or Mussolini. If politics and votes are that important to who you are, you’re not the person God put here for me. The woman that is to challenge me and help to complete me isn’t one that places politics on that kind of pedestal.
Unfortunately in 2017, the “R” or “D” by your name is all many people need to label you a racist, a socialist, or a jack wagon. Many of my friends are liberals and many are conservatives. We can discuss those issues respectfully, because we’re adults. We can also then still be friends. This sounds ludicrous to the perpetually offended and the perpetually offensive on all sides of the political aisle.
Venues such as Politico have for years carried the water for the Democratic party, and the balance has decreased. There was a time when I checked the website every day, reading the opinions of the conservative contributors, as well as those that woke up to soothing visions of shadowed azure, but increasingly, it’s become a place to attack the right.
Ben Strauss asked Clay Travis if he could spend the day with him for a long form feature piece on what exactly he does, how he does it, and perhaps gain an understanding into the kind of person, the kind of father, and the kind of talent Clay is in reality.
Clay, who doesn’t believe in negative publicity, jumped at the opportunity, but also partially believed Strauss would be at least somewhat fair in his final assessment, unlike The Daily Beast, whose hit job a few months ago was laughably egregious. “The Alex Jones of the Right?” Give me a break.
When I heard “POLITICO,” I knew it was trouble, because I’ve seen what the site has devolved into and how far it’s gone from what I thought it used to be. I, like many others, read Mike Allen’s Politico Playbook and subscribed to the daily email. But that site is no longer around. Or, if it is, it’s in name only.
Strauss met with Clay at his home in Franklin, Tennessee and drove in with him to our downtown Nashville studios. I, as usual, was already there, laying out the documents and information Clay would need for the show, and speaking to our two liberal associate producers (mentioned because that’s all Ben Strauss seems to care about) out in Los Angeles.
The two arrived and at first, spent time in the main studio as I worked from my control room. During commercial breaks, Clay would talk with Ben and answer some of his questions, and also would attempt to explain how our brand of radio works. Somewhere around 7:30 ET, Strauss departed that room and came to sit and talk with me. He would remain there for the rest of the show, and we talked a great deal.
Keep in mind, as we’re talking, I’m also trying to produce a nationally syndicated radio program on an incredibly busy morning. Recall Sunday’s NFL protests, Clay’s opinion on the situation, and then think of how many phone calls were rolling in that needed to be screened, weeded out, and prepared for air. That was just one responsibility, but that’s not really the point.
I did what I could to answer Ben Strauss’ questions as well as I could, while still producing, occasionally popping on air when Clay asked me a question, and handling the phone calls. This was by no means me sitting in front of an interviewer, but Strauss relentlessly grilled me on all aspects of Outkick, my politics, and Clay’s brand of entertainment.
If you read the Politico article, you’ll notice he quoted me several times in the roughly 4500 word piece. I probably spoke over ten thousand to him myself, but he picked about six sentences. Before I discuss those, let me explain how the interview went down. I can’t accurately describe how many times I was asked some variation of this question:
So, did Clay Travis make a conscious decision to appeal to the right for monetary and celebrity purposes?
It wouldn’t just come as a question, as it would also include something like, “I mean you guys know what you’re doing, and it’s clearly working for you, but this was intentional, right?” That’s paraphrasing, but he felt the need to make up quotes and insinuations from me, so I’ll do the same to him. But, I’ll be courteous enough to admit it, and also won’t take him out of context, as he did to me.
I refused to give him the answer he walked in the door craving. This guy had an agenda, he had his title picked out, he had his “gotcha” piece scripted out in his head before he ever shook hands with either one of us this past Monday morning. To call this article biased and littered with manipulation would be a massive understatement.
Strauss would then ask the same question again, but with variance in the selected words, hoping I wasn’t educated enough to see what he was doing. I wouldn’t give in, and when he mentioned Alex Jones, I immediately cut him off. Any comparison of Clay Travis to Alex Jones is utterly absurd and something I won’t tolerate. So, I threw out a different comparison, to someone I’ve read and listened to for a long time.
“I think if there’s a comparison to make here, it’s much more to Ben Shapiro. Alex Jones is ridiculous and dangerous.”
Strauss nodded, but then began talking about Mike Cernovich. I had no response to this, because I had never heard of him before. I have now, as per Wikipedia he’s known as an “American alt-right social media personality, writer, and conspiracy theorist.” Oh, so you mean he’s a less famous Alex Jones? I didn’t entertain the comparison because I was entirely unaware this man existed until Ben mentioned his name to me.
The left, particularly those in the media, love to throw out the term “alt-right” as if it’s some kind of gigantic movement, when in actuality it’s a minute fraction of people. This group is pure evil. They believe primarily in an ethnostate, based on the claim that the mixing of races is what’s destroying society, and that the white western way of life is the only answer to save the world. Where do you think this abysmally offensive “cuck” nonsense came from in the first place? They believe in cleansing and are racists, pure and simple. They’re abhorrent human beings.
Clay Travis isn’t alt-right in the least. I suggested to Strauss that I felt Donald Trump gave that incredibly small fringe movement a “wink and a gun” because he needed their support, and because he has no principles, merely interests. Correction, he has one interest, and it has five letters in its last name. The last four are “RUMP.”
Clay didn’t vote for Trump, and despite our many disagreements, he and I shared that in common. Never for a second did I consider Trump, and in fact as soon as he was the clear nominee, I officially registered as an Independent and removed the “R” from my name permanently. None of that matters to “journalists” like Ben Strauss, however. I’m alt-right because he and I wouldn’t necessarily vote the same way. I’m convinced most of the people that toss out “alt-right” like its a bodily function have no clue what it actually means.
So, Strauss asks me the same question repeatedly, like an interrogation tactic, and I simply can’t give him the answer he wants, because it’s untrue. When discussing my own politics and how I felt about ESPN, I laid it out for him. I told him that Clay and I diverged on the issue to some extent, but that without question, the network seems to have a hive mind mentality.
Again, while amidst my actual job, I off-handedly listed people who I disagree with politically and whose opinion often differs from mine. Among them were Jemele Hill and Mina Kimes. Incidentally, I also follow Mina Kimes on Twitter, because I find her intelligent and entertaining, and I thoroughly enjoy her NFL content. I simply don’t agree with her on other issues. That doesn’t mean I hate her. I’d love to meet her and have a conversation. She seems pretty awesome.
As for Jemele Hill, I had already told Strauss that Clay and I were on opposite sides of the suspension argument. I mentioned that Linda Cohn deserved the suspension, if anyone did, because she publicly criticized the organization that signs her paycheck. I didn’t feel Jemele should be suspended, and I made sure Strauss knew that. I told him I loved Cohn and always had, but that what she did is something you can’t do. I compared it to me writing an article for Outkick directly opposing Clay (which I actually wanted to do two weeks ago), and said he probably would permit it, if not encourage it, but almost nobody else would.
I didn’t believe Hill and Cohn were the same, and I also didn’t think the Schilling comparison was particularly apt. I told him this in detail, because he asked for my opinion. But, when I mentioned Hill and Kimes as two people, again of many, including Max Kellerman, Sarah Spain, and several others, where I didn’t feel my views were given any consideration, Strauss found a way to spin it. Boy did he ever.
As Travis was building his site, the sports industry was changing, too. Bryan Curtis noted earlier this year in an insightful piece for The Ringer that sportswriters have in recent years moved left on the political spectrum. “In the age of liberal sportswriting, the writers are now far more liberal than the readers,” he wrote. “There was a space that opened up for Clay,” Travis’ producer, Jason Martin, told me, adding that for a Tennessee conservative like him, none of ESPN’s most visible personalities—by which he meant people like Jemele Hill and Mina Kimes (both women of color)—seemed to speak to his political values. An ESPN staffer with whom I shared that critique told me, “Like ESPN doesn’t have a ton of white people on TV?”
Not once during my conversation with Ben Strauss did I mention either race or gender, but he releases this non-quote entirely out of context anyway, and also basically nudges his audience in the direction of the fact that I’m not only a white conservative, I’m also a racist. Anyone with even a rudimentary knowledge of me knows I’m as far from prejudiced as anyone can get. He further pushes this idea by taking my critique to an “ESPN staffer,” who then mentions the number of white people on the network.
What Strauss failed to mention is that I also discussed people I loved at ESPN, including Sage Steele, who, last I checked, fails to be white. I also talked about Scott Van Pelt, who for my money is the best in the entire sports media business, Dan LeBatard, whose radio show I greatly enjoy (despite how often he and I would disagree), and did say I was happy to see Will Cain getting more airtime.
Why not mention Kellerman, Spain, or certainly Sage Steele? It’s simple. For Ben Strauss’ piece to work, it would really help if Clay’s executive producer was a right wing lunatic. So, let’s spin NOTHING to make it look like he’s racist, let’s pepper him with the same question over again, and let’s play very friendly in person, finishing his sentences for him, leading him where we want him to go, and then let’s BURY this bozo. Screw him, right! We’ve got an agenda to fulfill.
The reason I listed ESPN folks I disagreed with was to describe the lack of diversity of thought in Bristol, and to say that although sometimes Clay goes further than I’d like and sometimes I’m bothered by some of our content, what I respect about Outkick is that he is okay with that reality. We both believe in John Stuart Mill and the Marketplace of Ideas, and only feel it should stop under the most extreme circumstances of provocation and incitement. I am always free to disagree with Clay Travis on absolutely anything. As he famously says, “It’s okay. You can be wrong.”
I didn’t mention this story to Strauss, but I will talk about it here. A few months ago, during one of the endless Colin Kaepernick discussions on ESPN, a particular leftist radio host laid out a pro-Kaep argument that was filled with commentaries on how the owners are racist and the many reasons it was sickening he wasn’t on a roster. I heard this story second hand from the co-host on that show, who happened to disagree. During the break, an ESPN Radio executive in the building walked into the studio and said, “I just wanted to thank you for having the correct take on all this.”
That’s a true story. Seriously.
Never will that statement or anything in that vicinity come from anyone at Outkick, be it print, radio, internet, or television, because there’s no such thing as a uniform “correct take.” When we agree, we agree, and when we don’t, we don’t, but we keep it respectful, we listen to one another, and we allow for an opinion that differs from our own. Clay might take a shot at your Twitter avatar, but it’s generally in good fun.
My entire point to Strauss was that at ESPN, it certainly feels like everyone is on the same exact ideological page. When there are four panelists on a debate show and not one of them thinks Kaepernick may be responsible for his own unemployment, that feels like Astroturf to me.
It’s the television equivalent of stacking the deck.
I was candid with Ben Strauss, but I wasn’t stupid. This article is unfair to ME, much less to Clay, and unlike him, my pulpit is nowhere near as large. When Strauss mentions Alex Jones, he uses my quote of “I told him no,” but goes no further. I spoke for a few minutes about how loathsome Jones is, how sad I believe his enterprise is, and what a cancer I believe him to be on common decency and discourse.
THAT’S why I told him no, Ben, but sure, just put the one line in and then immediately refute it. This is the problem with today’s media. This isn’t journalism. This is Geraldo Rivera actually opening the vault a day ahead of time and PLANTING the body of Jimmy Hoffa inside. Not only was I taken out of context, I was also reduced to a few words, with no exposition whatsoever.
To Ben Strauss, I say this, and please make an effort to see me as a person and not a voting classification. I don’t have a net worth you can find online. I don’t even have six figures in the bank right now. I scratched and clawed for everything I have, and until September of 2016, it had amounted to a meager income. I was on Medicaid, by force (ACA), because I couldn’t get health insurance. I didn’t want it, but I obeyed the law. I wasn’t full time anywhere until we started Outkick the Coverage last year. That’s how long and hard I’ve worked.
I graduated from Western Kentucky University in 2013 with multiple scholarships, a first place television award from the Associated Press in Kentucky, and numerous honors in both broadcasting and political science. With that degree and my dual internships, I made less than ten thousand dollars a year from radio in 2014 and 2015. I took whatever I could get as a host, a producer, a traffic reporter, a writer, and a play by play announcer, and still couldn’t afford to live on my own.
I’m the son of two wonderful people and I’m a child of God. I respect others and do my part both at home and in the community to try and improve the world for everyone. I also happen to believe in limited federal intrusion and that human beings are inherently decent. I believe good will always triumph over evil in the end, and that within reason, when it doesn’t negatively impact others, people should be able to do with their lives what they wish. The consequences are theirs alone.
I also don’t believe I, nor any tailored suit in Washington D.C. understands someone else’s life, family, or job better than they do. How they choose to raise their children, how they choose to earn a living, and who they choose to vote for should be entirely up to them. Yes, I’m a conservative who loves this country, and I feel extraordinarily lucky to live in a place where I can compose this piece without fear.
I also consider myself blessed to live in a republic where Ben Strauss can freely write his unfair, infuriatingly pathetic article. He can write that unfortunate collection of paragraphs, and I can then critique it. Then we can all go out for a beer and unite over something non-political. Or that’s the way it should work.
When you take me out of context and in effect brand me a racist in order to serve your leftist puppeteers, you can actually damage me. I’m not Clay Travis. I don’t have my own brand. I don’t live in a mansion. I don’t drive a luxury automobile. What happens to me if I’m blackballed and have nowhere to work if something were to go awry in my current position?
I also did nothing to you but try to answer your questions in as friendly a manner as I could while simultaneously earning a living.
What Politico chose to do in this article was fill in its own blanks. This article isn’t worthy of being called a hit piece. This was a sadly executed, biased Mad Lib, which also happens to be a perfect description for who I’m now afraid Ben Strauss is in his daily life. I thought he was a decent guy when he was in my presence, even though his questions verified my assertions of how slanted the finished Politico product would be. What he chose to do with my words, however, is not the mark of a decent guy.
I don’t judge Ben Strauss for what he wrote, because I don’t know him well enough to do so. Perhaps he should follow the same mantra going forward. He was around me for an hour, yet he made the decision to beat around the “He’s a racist” bush. I didn’t mention race or gender to him, yet that’s where he went with what I said. That makes Ben Strauss the racist. It also makes him a poor journalist.
You know what bad journalism is, Ben Strauss?
It’s “BAD FOR AMERICA, BUT IT’S GREAT FOR NOBODY.”
Clay and I gave this man access, we answered his questions, we tried to ensure he had all the information he needed to write an article worthy of his time. He interviewed me, he interviewed Clay’s wife (and asked her some RIDICULOUS, uncomfortable questions about the family now being on the wrong side of history), and he even spoke to Bobby freaking Bones about Clay.
This is the behind the scenes account of how one writer came in not to learn anything, not to be objective, and not to write an intriguing portrait of a controversial public figure, but to try and find a punchline for his bad joke.
After reading the article, the punchline is actually the byline. Go figure.