“Trump whisperer” Christopher Ruddy to speak at Playhouse

Students met on Nov. 2 to make signs for the silent protest and write on post-its why they are against Ruddy speaking.

Written By Nicole Pampena, Co-News Editor

Right-wing media pioneer Christopher Ruddy will speak tonight at the Pittsburgh Playhouse about his company Newsmax Media Inc. as well as his experiences as a friend of President Trump.

The event is the second installment of the TalkBack Series sponsored by the Center for Media Innovation (CMI), a speaker series that showcases “newsworthy and noteworthy” media entities, according to Director of the CMI Andy Conte.

Ruddy, who is not charging an appearance fee, agreed to appear upon the CMI’s request. Conte cited two reasons behind seeking out Ruddy for the series.

“He’s somebody who’s starting to figure it out [in the media business,]” Conte said. “His business is making money. Newsmax is growing; it’s a profitable news organization. The other part is he’s close to the president. He has the ear of the president and talks with him frequently.”

Ruddy founded Newsmax in 1998, a “multimedia publishing company that publishes online and offline content in the fields of news, politics, health and finance,” according to the company’s website.

Since it’s conception, Newsmax has received repeated mention in mainstream media including profiles in the New York Times and Bloomberg Business and reaches a monthly audience of 50 million.

Before becoming an entrepreneur, Ruddy spent his earlier days in his journalistic career at the New York Post and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. At the Tribune-Review, he covered the Clinton administration under then-editor-in-chief Richard Mellon Scaife.

According to Conte, Pittsburgh is “uniquely situated” to host a speaker such as Ruddy, describing the city’s geopolitical location as a “a blue dot surrounded by red.”

“Our goal is to bring important, interesting people to campus and expose our students,” Conte said. “Because you’re in Pittsburgh or because you grew up here, doesn’t mean that’s where your imagination should end. You should be able to access people from all over.”

The event has stirred interest in the Point Park community, some of which is negative. Senior costume design major Amelia Benson and sophomore stage management major Princess Winder expressed these sentiments.

“Truthfully, my initial reaction was primarily frustration because I felt like the subject of the email we were sent on this matter was meant to rile people up,” Benson said. “If they wanted this to be an educational experience, they should’ve listed his credentials first.”

Such credentials include developing a leading conservative news organization and kindling conspiracy theories surrounding the suicide of Vincent Foster, a Deputy White House Counsel during the first six months of Clinton’s presidency.

In response to Ruddy’s appearance as well as outcry from other students on social media, Benson and Winder were inspired to lead a silent protest during the event.

They hope to attract the attention of both Ruddy and the audience by hanging sheets from the balconies of the theater denouncing Ruddy being on campus.

“We have to use our voices,” Winder said. “And it wasn’t necessarily that I wanted to stop him from coming because you can’t take away someone else’s freedom of speech if you want it yourself. But what I wanted to…form was a group of people who wanted to voice why we don’t like things that he believes in.”

Conte wants to “stress that [the event] is not an endorsement or a celebration of one candidate or ideology, but an opportunity to have an honest, open, intelligent discussion with somebody who is close to the President of the United States.”

Ruddy will appear in the Rockwell Theatre of the Playhouse Nov. 8 at 7 p.m. The event will begin with a short presentation followed by a Q&A session moderated by Conte. Tickets are free for students and available to the public for $25. Seats are reserved through purchase online at pittsburghplayhouse.com or at the door.