Media Angle is a column offering perspectives on the media landscape from the newsmakers themselves.
The world of conservative podcasts just got a little more “ruthless.”
Comfortably Smug may not exactly be a household name but he has become an icon on political Twitter. To the left, he’s an insidious troll. To the right, he’s royalty. While his identity remains known, his presence is powerful. He boasts nearly 223,000 Twitter followers, including Donald Trump Jr.; Kayleigh McEnany; Ted Cruz; and Nikki Haley. He also has his own cult following, which he refers to as his “minions.”
Smug, as he commonly refers to himself, made a big splash earlier this year by presenting the first “Liberal Hack Tournament,” in which the biggest mainstream media names faced off against each other in a March Madness-style competition decided by voters. This year’s winner was CNN’s leftwing media reporter Brian Stelter.
The identity of Josh Holmes, al contrario, is very clear. He is the president and founding partner of the public affairs firm Cavalry and a frequent guest on Fox News. Holmes is best known in the streets of Washington D.C. as the former chief of staff and campaign manager for Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky.
Two worlds collided when Smug and Holmes joined forces with their new podcast “Ruthless,” which debuted on Oct. 22 and drops new episodes every Tuesday and Thursday.
Left-wing critics immediately slammed the podcast after its debut was announced Oct. 9. The name and logo reference the “Ruth-less” Supreme Court following the death of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg and the confirmation of Justice Amy Coney Barrett. But to Smug and Holmes, the haters will hate.
“It’s possible to be funny and still care about politics,” Holmes said in the preview of their podcast. “You can have a sense of humor and be a conservative. There is absolutely no prerequisite in being a dork.”
“What we want to get across is that conservatives are allowed to have fun,” Smug explained, revealing his voice publicly for the very first time. “This podcast isn’t going to be about reading books or The Federalist Papers or being lectured to. This isn’t a podcast for people who got stuffed into lockers, this is a podcast for folks who want to stuff people into lockers.”
“I am just super tired of hearing crybaby whining about how unfair it is to be a Republican,” Holmes added. “This not where we crybaby whine, this is where we even the score,”
“Ruthless” has already made a mark in a short time, debuting in the top 30 of Apple podcasts and landing its first high-profile interview with Sen. Tom Cotton, R-Ark.
In un'intervista a Fox News’ Media Angle, Smug and Holmes discuss why conservatives need their podcast, how their partnership covers all bases, and what it would take for Smug to show his face to the world.
MEDIA ANGLE: What inspired you to launch this podcast?
JOSH HOLMES: We felt like there was a real hole in the conservative media landscape for people who enjoy politics, but want to have fun while doing it. They want to know what’s really going on, but could do without the ideological lecture. Some of it is generational, some of it just not subscribing to the same tired format. Nobody wants a PowerPoint on the Bill of Rights every time they’re making fun of Joe Biden, which is where “Ruthless” comes in.
COMFORTABLY SMUG: There was a lack of fun and humorous podcasts for conservatives, so we aim to fill that void. It seems like the media companies on the right only stick to dry academic lecturing and never try to entertain as well as inform. “Ruthless” is exactly what conservatives have been looking for.
MA: The name of your podcast “Ruthless” received some blowback from critics who saw this as disrespectful to the late Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. What went behind the podcast name? Was it merely an effort to “own the libs” or is there more meaning to “Ruthless?”
HOLMES & SMUG: We’re outraged by the outrage.
MA: The podcast landscape continues to get crowded with countless political, media, and entertainment personalities trying to break through the medium. What makes “Ruthless” stand out from the rest, especially from other conservative podcasts?
HOLMES: After one episode we were number three on the political charts so I think we tapped into an audience that has been dying for funny conservative observations of the world without being overwhelmed by dorkery.
SMUG: “Ruthless” stands out from the crowd because we aren’t lecturing the audience on the Federalist Papers or whatever else the Georgetown cocktail party conservative elite are interested in. We’re having fun and we’re taking the fight to the left.
MA: Josh, you’re known in D.C. circles for your past work with Mitch McConnell, but you’re not nearly as known on Twitter as Smug, who has built a cult following and has become a Twitter icon among conservatives. Was there anything intimidating about partnering with someone who is this popular and perhaps even controversial?
HOLMES: I think part of what works with “Ruthless” is that we come from very different backgrounds. Smug is a provocateur and internet sage and I’m a guy who has spent his entire professional life on the inside of politics. Between the two of us we pretty much cover all of our bases.
MA: Smug, you have gained a massive following while being hidden behind your avatar and keeping your identity a secret. With your podcast, il tuo “minions” are hearing your voice for the very first time. Many people feel very insecure over the way they look on camera or the way they sound. Were you hesitant at all in unveiling your voice on “Ruthless?” Would you consider appearing on camera for “Ruthless” nel futuro?
SMUG: We hit 25,000 subscribers and I turn the camera on for a video podcast.
MA: What are you hoping to ultimately accomplish with “Ruthless?”
HOLMES: World domination? Non lo so, we just thought we could serve people some interesting and entertaining content and if we do that well the rest will take care of itself.
SMUG: Destroy the left while entertaining the right.