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The Demise of Rolling Stone: How A Legendary Magazine Sold Out to Trump and the Saudis

The Demise of Rolling Stone: How A Legendary Magazine Sold Out to Trump and the Saudis

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[A request to Rolling Stone for comment on this piece sent two days ago received no reply by press time. We will update if and when we receive one.]

Rolling Stone magazine was once a shining beacon of rebellion. Devoted to telling the truth about its subjects, the publication has often caused controversy throughout its more than fifty years. But in more recent years, the magazine has seen its share of bad publicity in light of bad decision making, which led to the ultimate bad decision: Rolling Stone was sold to the son of Trump-backing multimillionaire Roger Penske, Jay Penske. Jay is a high-profile GOP donor who fired tenured and experienced journalists, then hired hacks to write tabloid level pieces that leaned so far to the right, he was awarded a Presidential Medal from the former guy himself.

One member of Penske’s stable is Seth Hettena, a freelance journalist who encouraged people to donate to Trump in 2016 and whose tweets have emerged showing he’s against a living wage and also mocked the SEIU for fighting for $15 an hour. Hettena is a journalist who is also known for going after the likes of Erik Prince and Blackwater. One might infer that Hettena now appears corrupted by the very forces he once sought to investigate.

Hettena recently contacted MeidasTouch, the PAC founded by the Meiselas Brothers, with a list of accusations he was about to write in an article specifically crafted to defame them. Hettena demanded an explanation, but MeidasTouch simply tweeted a reply. And now Hettena’s attempts to smear and silence a group who are clearly seen as a threat to Republicans has just backfired, as the spotlight is now not just on him, but the practices of his boss and his son, Jay Penske, who now runs the magazine.

Jay Penske lives the millionaire playboy lifestyle, with a supermodel wife and a lot of wealthy friends. He was once arrested with his brother in Nantucket for assaulting a woman and urinating on her. But the most compelling thing about Jay Penske is that both he and his father have close ties to the Saudis. Jay Penske took $200 million from a Saudi Arabian government-backed company, SRMG, but has neither explained the loan nor the relationship. And Penske Media Corporation, which employs hundreds of journalists at Variety, Deadline, The Robb Report, WWD and others as well as Rolling Stone, has never publicly addressed the investment tie to the regime, either to defend or explain it.

But Rolling Stone did report that Mohammed Bin-Salman (MBS), who is directly connected to the murder of American journalist Jamal Khashoggi, acquired a $500 million stake in LiveNation, the biggest producer of live events and concerts in America, via the Saudia Arabian Sovereign Wealth Fund. Seeing as Jay Penske was seen partying with MBS and others aboard his yacht immediately after Khashoggi’s murder, it’s assumed that some or possibly all of the $200 million Jay Penske received was from MBS as well.

Jay was also in the Oval Office the day his father Roger was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom from the former guy.

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So what we have is a smear campaign written by a freelance journalist who hates unions but loves Trump writing for a publication owned by a Trump shill who parties with the Saudis. Both Rolling Stone and Hettena are also now targeting the vendors who work with MeidasTouch.

Grant Stern also contributed to this story. 

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