Reason Podcast

Kevin Williamson on How Mob Politics Got Him Fired from The Atlantic

He was hired to bring ideological diversity to The Atlantic and fired days later for being heterodox. He's not a fan of Donald Trump but finds his critics just as bad.


In 2018, the journalist Kevin Williamson was hired away from the flagship publication for the conservative movement, National Review, by one of the oldest and most-prestigious magazines in American history, The Atlantic. The editor of The Atlantic, Jeffrey Goldberg, explained that Williamson's hire was done to help bring ideological diversity to the pages of a publication that skewed liberal or left on most things.

Williamson's first piece for The Atlantic—a column declaring that "The Libertarian Moment" heralded by Reason was deader than a doornail—appeared on April 2, 2018. He was fired on April 5, after a years-old tweet had come to light, one in which the pro-life Williamson argued that women who have abortions should not only be charged with homicide but executed, preferably by hanging. It's worth pointing out that Williamson was joking, at least about the hanging part, because he's generally against capital punishment.

Williamson rejoined the staff of National Review, where he continues to author a mix of heavily reported articles from the backroads of America and opinion pieces that are always incredibly well-written and challenging to libertarian sensibilities—many of which the 46-year-old Texan shares. He's also just published The Smallest Minority: Independent Thinking in the Age of Mob Politics, which he had actually started writing before he got fired by The Atlantic.

Nick Gillespie spoke with Williamson at FreedomFest, the annual gathering of libertarians in Las Vegas, about his brief, tumultuous experience at The Atlantic, why he thinks Trump supporters are often just as bad as left-wing ideologues when it comes to shutting down divergent opinions, and how America might actually start encouraging people to think for themselves again.

Audio production by Ian Keyser.