Make a point to read all of Jamie Kirchick’s “The Rise and Fall of Chris Hughes and Sean Eldridge, America’s Worst Gay Power Couple“; here’s the opening:
Just three years ago, Chris Hughes and Sean Eldridge were the toast of the liberal establishment. The Facebook co-founder and his politically ambitious husband embodied all the attributes of a bona fide “gay power couple.” In 2012, Hughes bought The New Republic, rescuing the flagship liberal magazine from financial peril and establishing himself as a player in Washington. At the same time, Eldridge was quietly preparing to run for Congress in upstate New York.
Young, handsome, Ivy League-pedigreed, rich (“the wealthiest openly gay men under 30” according to The Advocate, a stretch considering that the fortune belongs to Hughes), and espousing predictably liberal political views, the Hughes-Eldridge partnership was destined to work wonders for America.
How swiftly things change. In just the past two months, one half of this pair managed to single-handedly destroy a storied journalistic institution, while the other suffered a crushing electoral defeat in New York’s 19th Congressional District. Last week, the 31-year-old Hughes forced the resignations of both the editor and literary editor of The New Republic, whose 100th anniversary he presided over last month at a star-studded gala in Washington, D.C.
In protest of the magazine’s newly ensconced CEO’s plan to transform TNRinto a “vertically integrated digital media company,” the majority of the magazine’s senior and contributing editors resigned.
Weeks before the implosion at TNR, 28-year-old Eldridge lost his congressional bid by a stunning 30 points, despite having outspent his opponent nearly 3-to-1 in a district President Obama won by 6 percentage points. The couple had purchased a $2 million home in the district expressly so that Eldridge could run there, their purchase of a $5 million mansion in the adjoining 18th having come to naught after that seat was won by another gay Democrat in 2012.
Here at PJ on Friday, Ron Radosh, a former contributor to The New Republic (as was Kirchick, who made his reputation with a groundbreaking article revealing the hateful ideology of the Ron Paul cult), wrote about “The Long, Slow Death of The New Republic“:
When Hughes bought the publication, as the Times story notes, he said he was motivated to purchase it because he had a great interest in “the future of high quality long-form journalism.”
I knew at the time that the result of his takeover would be the magazine’s demise. In a PJ Media column, I wrote: “I am not too optimistic about its future.” At that time, Richard Just was running it; he had just met with Hughes and convinced him to purchase TNR, hoping that he would save the magazine. Shortly thereafter, Hughes fired Just and convinced TNR’s old editor Frank Foer to return as editor-in-chief.
I believed that TNR would become a shill for the Obama administration. This was made clear quite soon…
Hughes recently told reporters that he considered TNR to be not a magazine, but a “vertically integrated digital media company,” perhaps something along the lines of Politico or Buzzfeed. As owner and publisher, he has a right to do what he wants with his money. But he has quickly abandoned the promises he made when he bought TNR, to make the magazine relevant and to continue true to its intellectual traditions.
The current crop of departing editors should not have been surprised at this turn of events. The new course was clear from the very first day Hughes took it over. I recall him announcing that he was going to set up nationwide TNR coffee shops, starting in the major East and West Coast cities, where people could drink coffee and eat pastries and get TNRmugs, shirts, as well as the magazine itself. That crazy idea never came to fruition. But it was a harbinger of things to come.
Here’s Kirchick, really sticking the knife in with his analysis of Hughes’ lucky path to a pile of wealth that he now doesn’t have the skills to use effectively. This explains the silliness of wanting to turn an institution of political journalism into a Starbucks:
Unlike Mark Zuckerberg and Dustin Moskovitz, with whom he roomed at Harvard, Hughes had no special programming or coding abilities. But there was a silver lining in this lack of technical expertise, in that, as the only member of this tech geek crew with passable social skills, he could take up the public-relations portfolio. “He is fortunate he found himself in the same room,” David Kirkpatrick, author of a book about the website, told the Times. “He is more socially adjusted than the rest of them.” By his own admission, Hughes’ main job for Facebook was “customer service.” $700 million, the rough amount that Hughes earned when he cashed out of the company in 2007, is a pretty good take for a glorified call-center operator.
Is there a more cuttingmMillennial insult than to compare someone who thinks he’s the next Zuckerberg building something bigger than Facebook to a “a glorified call-center operator”?
Also be sure and follow Kirchick on Twitter:
And check out some of his other pieces at the Daily Beast from this year: