Bruce Murphy
Back in the News

Sykes Unloads Right Wisconsin

Wigderson is new owner/editor. But don’t worry, Sykes is a still a “conservative.”

By - Jun 26th, 2017 12:25 pm
Charlie Sykes. Photo by Michael Horne.

Charlie Sykes. Photo by Michael Horne.

Does this qualify as another recantation?

At 12:36 a.m., 36 minutes after midnight today, Charlie Sykes announced he was saying “goodbye to Right Wisconsin.” Apparently the whole thing had kept him up late last night.

“Since its launch in 2013, Right Wisconsin has been at the epicenter of the conservative movement in Wisconsin,” Sykes writes. Or at least it was until Charlie suddenly began renouncing his views in prominent publications like the New York Times and Politico, and thereby winning a position as a contributor to the liberal MSNBC.

That has won him the denunciation of Wisconsin Conservative Digest leader Bob Donhal who calls Sykes a “judas goat,” and the skepticism of conservative talker Mark Belling, who told the Los Angeles Times “There’s a fortune to be made going out speaking to liberals and telling them how evil and awful conservatives are,” which “has opened doors for (Sykes) that otherwise would not have existed.”

In short, getting conservative individuals and groups (like Wisconsin Club for Growth) to support Right Wisconsin, which Sykes had previously had success doing, would be pretty tough now that many of them are no longer sure Charlie is one of them. So maybe better to hand off the baton and get out of the right lane.

“I’m delighted that James Wigderson, who has served ably as the site’s assistant editor, will be taking over as editor-in-chief,” Sykes says of Right Wisconsin.

But Sykes doesn’t discuss the ownership of the publication. That was always something of a mystery, as I’ve written. It was owned by Scripps Publishing, the Cincinnati-based company that owned WTMJ radio, but the support it got from conservative groups and lobbyists in the state gave it more of a not-for-profit feel.

Yet even after Sykes left WTMJ and no longer worked for Scripps, its stories still said “Copyright 2016 Scripps Media, Inc. All rights reserved,” and that label is still there, although Valerie Miller, spokesperson for Scripps, told me back in March that “ownership of Right Wisconsin was transferred to Charlie Sykes when he retired at the end of 2016.”

So Sykes has been the owner, and it appears he has now handed it over to Wigderson.

Conservative political strategist Brian Fraley, who served as Right Wisconsin’s first managing editor, offered “Congratulations to my good friend” James Wigderson on Facebook, adding that Wigderson now “becomes the owner/publisher/editor of Right Wisconsin.”

Wigderson has managed to remain loyal to Sykes, which couldn’t have been easy, given the decline of Sykes’ standing among the state’s conservatives. (Jim scolded me back in February for having the temerity to report on the many recantations of Sykes.)

I’ve always liked Wigderson. Though we disagree on most issues, he’s never personalized it, and I’ve found him particularly insightful on Waukesha politics. And he has a sense of humor, which never hurts. He has labored for many years for little money, the rare example of the good conservative soldier who somehow never got a ride on the right wing gravy train.

And he still hasn’t. Though Sykes’ farewell column tells us “the best is yet to come,” I doubt Right Wisconsin has any funding, so Wigderson will have to rebuild it through his own efforts.

The other issue, though, is whether the conservative MacIver Institute will get involved with Right Wisconsin. MacIver already has an arrangement with Wigderson (he gets compensation of some kind as a contributing writer) and has recently styled itself as more of a news publication, having picked up M.D. Kittle, who was the top writer for years for the conservative Wisconsin Watchdog, which has been in decline for some time.

Wigderson declined to comment on Right Wisconsin’s ownership and financing. “As for contributing to the MacIver Institute, Media Trackers, or other websites and publications,” he wrote me, “RightWisconsin is going to be my primary focus for the foreseeable future. However, as Master Yoda once said, ‘Always in motion is the future.’” Maybe Yoda will come aboard as a financier.

As for Sykes, his column promises he will continue as a Right Wisconsin contributor, “to prod and poke my fellow conservatives,” in Wisconsin, though I’m guessing that prodding won’t have much impact any more.

Meantime Wigderson has written this column to herald the new era at Right Wisconsin. Task number one, I’d think, would be removing the outmoded Scripps copyright.

14 thoughts on “Back in the News: Sykes Unloads Right Wisconsin”

  1. Vincent Hanna says:

    Is he going to move to NYC or DC? Granted you can work from anywhere these days, but might be more convenient with MSNBC, NY Times, and WNYC gigs.

  2. John Foust says:

    In other news, I’ve got for sale, if you want it.

  3. Vincent Hanna says:

    “That has won him the denunciation of Wisconsin Conservative Digest leader Bob Donhal who calls Sykes a “judas goat,”

    The classy gentleman known as WCD also called two women a “bitch” in another discussion today. So glad he is important enough to be referenced in this story. Way to go conservatives!

  4. Begonia says:

    I like Wigderson as well, ever since I lived in Waukesha and relied on his blog (and other bloggers) for news in the ‘Sha. Even though I disagree with most of his views I do hope he is able to monetize the site.

    Wigderson’s second task (after removing the Scripps copywright) should be to enable comments on the site.

  5. fightingbobfan says:

    Without the Charlie Sykes brand, Right Wisconsin will be going right to the bottom. Unlike bricks and mortar, you don’t have some neat building to sell when a site changes proprietors.

  6. fightingbobfan says:

    My deals with Wiggie were not so non-personal. Had to make one of his posts go away on Facebook once when he made a comment that prompted me to fire back a legal threat.

  7. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Sykes is only for Sykes. Wigderson is lightweight, Nev’r Trumper. Do not need him or that goofy Schneider in Journal.

  8. Wisconsin Conservative Digest says:

    Want Conservative news? Facebook: Wisconsin Conservative Digest

  9. Stephen says:

    Really proud of Charlie Sykes!! One of the few non-hypo rites who is conservative. Actually has a brain who realizes what a disaster this moran called Trump is. That we have to deal everyday with this delusional 3rd grade pathological liar is almost unbelievable. I thought Americans were smarter than that but If things keep going the way they are I am afraid we’re headed for another 1917 Communist takeover with many millionaires beheaded.

  10. data says:

    Charlie Sykes is still an awful awful person.

  11. Thomas Odem says:

    I just watched Sykes on the latest “Real Time” show; when did he become the George Hamilton on Wisconsin? The Sykes I know was always pale, pasty and freckled.

  12. Thomas Odem says:

    *of Wisconsin….

  13. John Casper says:

    Bruce, many thanks.

    I have immense respect for Sykes’ skill as a communicator.

    It’s not unusual that he used it to advance his own career.

    He appears to recognize that his efforts only served the elites and combined with WTMJ’s 50,000 watt blowtorch did enormous damage to the middle class. IMHO, he doesn’t want that as his legacy. He probably understands it’s bad for the GOP and democratic capitalism.

    AFAIK, he’s out front of Republicans for Pence. I think Pence could be worse than Trump, but I don’t see any alternative to impeaching and convicting theDonald. IMHO a lot of Dems and Independents agree with him.

    If he moves forward on anti-trust–break up the monopolies and oligopolies–lower taxes for the 99%–bring back the holiday on the payroll tax, slash personal and corporate income taxes–and more federal spending on health care, green infrastructure–that’s not owned by the elites–and education, he can be a force for democratic capitalism.

  14. Andy Umbo says:

    Odem—I think it’s a spray tan!

    After being a liberal editor of MilMag, and then virtually creating the lunacy of the neo-cons in Wisconsin, he’s now headed back left! Charlie, Charlie, Charlie, is it really anything for a paycheck? Can’t you just go down with the “tea-baggin-working class-neo-con ship” you built like a true captain?

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