Steven Brill sat down with The New York Observer last week to talk about a wide variety of media issues, including his new, tantalizingly undefined project with former New York Times Executive Editor Jill Abramson. While he was at it, he shared his less-than-flattering opinion of Chris Hughes, the owner of The New Republic.
Brill’s falling-out with Hughes dates back to 2012, when Hughes, who had just acquired the magazine, met with Brill and bought, sight unseen, his magnum opus on health care costs, promising that it would grace the cover of the relaunch issue.
I went home and told my wife that I was going to do that health care thing for The New Republic. She said, “God, are you a schmuck. You should give it to Remnick.”
As for the notorious moment when Hughes replaced the story with a Barack Obama interview at the last minute, Brill said that a star-struck Hughes just couldn’t get over the fact that the president was willing to talk to him.
Obama’s giving interviews out like candy and presidential interviews always suck. He said no, it’s an exclusive interview in the Oval Office. He must have repeated Oval Office nine times, like he couldn’t believe he was getting to go to the Oval Office.
Brill added that when Hughes laid off editor Franklin Foer and cut the production schedule, prompting editors to quit en masse in December, that was just the bungling of a young kid:
That is exactly the kind of rookie mistake I would make at 29,” Brill said. “So the mistake was easy to give him a pass on. But lying to me wasn’t.
In the end, he joked, Hughes did him a favor by pushing his story off the front page and giving him the chance to run it in Time Magazine. “Thank God that this guy Chris Hughes is not a man of his word.”