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Cumulus Media severs ties with Podcast Movement after Ben Shapiro controversy

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Michael Brochstein/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images

Broadcasting giant Cumulus Media on Tuesday severed ties with Podcast Movement, the trade association that issued a groveling apology for "harm" purportedly caused by Daily Wire podcast host Ben Shapiro's presence at their conference in Dallas, Texas, last month.

Cumulus, the third largest owner and operator of AM and FM radio stations in the United States, said in a statement it was "dismayed and disappointed" by trade association's response after Shapiro visited the Daily Wire booth at the Podcast Movement conference and greeted fans and supporters. The Daily Wire was one of the event's sponsors.

The Cumulus Podcast Network has been the Daily Wire's advertising sales representative since 2016. The Atlanta-based company has also syndicated Shapiro's radio show through its Westwood One subsidiary since 2019.

"At Cumulus Media, our tenet is that Every Voice Matters and we support conferences and trade events where differing political viewpoints can be expressed and received with respect," Cumulus said. "As such, we were dismayed and disappointed by Podcast Movement's handling of the reaction to our partner, top podcaster, and conservative talk leader Ben Shapiro's mere presence at Podcast Movement.

"After giving the leaders of Podcast Movement sufficient time to appropriately address their misstep, we are disassociating from Podcast Movement, including canceling our 2023 sponsorship plans," the company announced.

Controversy exploded late last month after an attendee at Podcast Movement's conference complained that Shapiro's presence at the event did not make her feel "safe."

In response to the complaint, Podcast Movement posted an apology on Twitter taking "full responsibility for the harm done by his presence."

The trade association said Shapiro's presence at the event was "unacceptable," a statement that drew fierce backlash from conservatives. Daily Wire co-CEO Jeremy Boreing accused the group of "unadulterated bigotry" against conservative podcasters in a tirade denouncing how Shapiro, his friend and business partner, was treated. On Tuesday, Boreing praised Cumulus' action and called on other media companies to defend free speech.

“I’m glad to see our longtime partner Cumulus/Westwood One taking such a strong and public stand against Podcast Movement’s outright and abject bigotry,” Boreing said, according to the Daily Wire. “Though Podcast Movement quietly removed their bigoted tweet thread over the weekend, they still have yet to retract and publicly apologize for their hateful comments about Ben Shapiro and The Daily Wire.

“In an illiberal moment such as the one we’re currently living in, if we don’t stand up to this kind of bigoted behavior it’s only going to get worse,” he continued. “I certainly hope Cumulus’s strong response to Podcast Movement is the first of many others like it.”

In the wake of the controversy, Podcast Movement deleted the tweets apologizing for "harm caused by Shapiro's presence.

"We’re listening to our Podcast Movement community - many who’ve been with us since the start. We’re putting in place policies to guide our social media & events with inclusivity, diversity & respect for all," the group tweeted on Sept. 2. " It’s a journey. We’ll keep listening, keep growing together."

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