Publishing giant Simon & Schuster is facing criticism and outrage after it was reported that one of the company’s distribution clients is publishing a book by Sgt. Jonathan Mattingly, one of the officers who shot Breonna Taylor during a March 2020 raid in Louisville, KY. The book, titled The Fight for Truth: The Inside Story Behind the Breonna Taylor Tragedy, is set for publication this fall. But following backlash, Simon & Schuster announced that it would not be involved in the book’s distribution.
As of Friday, though, the book will still be published by Post Hill Press, a Tennessee-based publishing house that specializes in Christian and conservative books. In an initial response, Simon & Schuster said that it has no editorial control over the books published by clients like Post Hill Press. Hours later, the company released a second statement: “Like much of the American public, earlier today Simon & Schuster learned of plans by distribution client Post Hill Press to publish a book by Jonathan Mattingly. We have subsequently decided not to be involved in the distribution of this book.”
Kelsey Merritt, a spokesperson for Post Hill Press, told The New York Times that the publisher stands by its decision to uplift Mattingly’s voice. “In the case of Sergeant Mattingly, the mainstream media narrative has been entirely one-sided related to this story and we feel that he deserves to have his account of the tragic events heard publicly, as well,” Merritt said.
All of this isn’t exactly out of character for the massive publishing house, or for its distribution client. Post Hill Press has published many questionable titles, including Trump and Reagan: Defenders of America, Grow Up and Vote for Trump: Why 2020 Is Your Last Chance to Become an Adult, and Elizabeth Warren: How Her Presidency Would Destroy the Middle Class and the American Dream. Rep. Matt Gaetz, who currently stands accused of sex trafficking underage girls, also published his book through Post Hill Press.
Simon & Schuster has previously faced similar criticism for taking on authors including Sen. Josh Hawley, who promoted Trump’s baseless theories about election fraud, and right-wing commentator Milo Yiannopoulos. (Both were dropped before publication.) And, earlier this month, former Vice President Mike Pence signed on to publish two books through Simon & Schuster. And although the company has chosen to distance itself from the Mattingly title, it hasn’t yet severed its distribution deal with Post Hill Press — which means it is not only choosing to amplify the voice of one of Taylor’s killers, but attempting to profit off of her murder. (Refinery29 has reached out to Simon & Schuster for comment.)
Mattingly was one of seven officers who broke into Taylor’s home, and he fired at least one of the shots that killed her. Taylor’s boyfriend, Kenneth Walker — who was inside the apartment and believed this was a home intrusion — shot at Mattingly’s leg during the raid. Two of the three officers who opened fire during the attack were dismissed from the Louisville Police Department, but none were directly charged for their role in her murder. (Brett Hankison, who also shot into a neighboring apartment, was charged with wanton endangerment.) Mattingly later sued Walker for "emotional distress."
Of all the officers involved in Taylor’s murder, Mattingly has been the most vocal. He gave an interview in October, in which he told Taylor’s mother that “no one should have to go through” what she did, but failed to apologize, and asserted that her death was “not a race thing.” And then, there was his meandering, six-paragraph email sent to around 1,000 officers in September 2020.
“You DO NOT DESERVE to be in this position. The position that allows thugs to get in your face and yell, curse and degrade you,” Mattingly wrote, according to a screenshot first obtained by Vice correspondent Roberto Aram Ferdman. “Regardless of the outcome today or Wednesday, I know we did the legal, moral and ethical thing that night. It’s sad how the good guys are demonized, and criminals are canonized.”
Mattingly later claimed that he wasn’t discussing Taylor’s death when referred to doing the “moral and ethical thing,” but to his job overall. Although he was reprimanded by the Louisville Police Chief for the email, he still remains employed.
This speaks to the most disturbing part of the controversy: Post Hill Press believes that Mattingly deserves to share “his side of the story,” as if his side isn’t that he’s currently alive, employed, and cleared of all charges. And in the wake of other police shootings just this week, the decision to give a platform to Mattingly only reminds us that the police continue to move on from, and even profit off of, the deaths that happen at their hands. Because the side of the story we should be hearing is Breonna Taylor’s — however, she was killed while sleeping in her home at 26 years old. She’ll never be able to tell it.