- Based in Los Angeles, Crooked Media (CM) is a progressive podcast platform founded in early 2017 by three former staffers for Barack Obama: Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor. Favreau was Obama’s head speechwriter from 2005, when the latter was a U.S. senator, through 2013, five years into his presidency. Lovett wrote speeches for both President […]
Based in Los Angeles, Crooked Media (CM) is a progressive podcast platform founded in early 2017 by three former staffers for Barack Obama: Jon Favreau, Jon Lovett, and Tommy Vietor. Favreau was Obama’s head speechwriter from 2005, when the latter was a U.S. senator, through 2013, five years into his presidency. Lovett wrote speeches for both President Obama and Hillary Clinton. And Vietor spent nine years working for Obama, capping off that tenure with a stint as Assistant Press Secretary from January 2009 to January 2011, and as National Security Spokesman and Special Assistant from January 2011 through March 2013. Prior to creating CM, the three founders had spent nine months co-hosting Keepin’ It 1600, a weekly political podcast produced by The Ringer, a sports and pop culture website and podcast network.
The idea for CM was born the day after Donald Trump’s presidential election victory in 2016, when the co-founders decided to create a new podcast and leftist media company to promote the anti-Trump “resistance.” “With Donald Trump winning the presidency, we have decided — we’ve realized — that democracy is not just a job for politicians,” Favreau explained in CM’s early days. “It’s a job for every single American, and that job doesn’t just end on Election Day — that job is an every-single-day job. It is a fight.”
Crooked Media derived its name from the adjective that Trump had repeatedly used to describe Hillary Clinton during the 2016 campaign. CM’s programs include a network of podcasts, a news and opinion website, live shows and tours, and a social media and live-streaming presence.
CM announced a major expansion in October 2017 with the launch of Crooked.com, a text journalism site helmed by Editor-In-Chief Brian Beutler, who was formerly a senior editor at New Republic.
CM’s flagship program is a twice-weekly production titled “Pod Save America.” The Monday edition of this program is hosted by Favreau, Vietor, and Lovett, and the Thursday edition by Favreau and Daniel Pfeiffer. Like CM’s three co-founders, Pfeiffer was a longtime former aide to Barack Obama, serving in various press and communications roles throughout the 2008 presidential campaign and then in the Obama White House, most notably as Senior Advisor for Strategy and Communications from 2013-15.
Obama himself was a guest on one of the early episodes of “Pod Save America.”
During the first year after President Trump’s election, more than 1,600 political podcasts — mostly with an anti-Trump orientation — sprouted up on the Internet. “Pod Save America,” with nearly 120 million downloads during that time frame, was indisputably the leader of the pack. By February 2018, that download figure had reached 175 million. Democratic strategist Jesse Ferguson characterized the podcast as “the voice of the ‘resistance’” against the Trump presidency. The New York Times, meanwhile, called it “the left’s answer to conservative talk radio.”
“Pod Save America” does not limit its activities merely to discussion and debate, but is heavily devoted to political activism in the form of get-out-the-vote efforts, fundraising drives, telephone campaigns, and mass demonstrations. In 2017 the show partnered with MoveOn.org to dispatch nearly 2,000 individuals to Republican town-hall meetings. It also partnered with Swing Left to raise more than $1 million for candidates challenging House Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections. And it partnered with Indivisible to bombard Republican senators with tens of thousands of phone calls demanding the preservation of Obamacare.
Some of CM’s other programs include the following:
“Pod Save the World” focuses on foreign policy and international relations and is co-hosted by Tommy Vietor and Ben Rhodes, the latter of whom served as former President Obama’s Deputy National Security Advisor.
“Lovett or Leave It” is a show where host Jon Lovett and a panel of guests discuss topics that are making headlines.
“Crooked Minis” (formerly “Crooked Conversations”) features in-depth discussions about topics that are not tied to the latest headlines.
“With Friends Like These” features interviews that delve into social and cultural issues and is hosted by journalist Ana Marie Cox.
“Keep It” examines the intersection of popular culture and politics, and is hosted by Ira Madison III, Louis Virtel, and Aida Osman.
“Hysteria” is hosted by Erin Ryan, Alyssa Mastromonaco, and a rotating set of women who discuss news, politics, and cultural stories that affect women’s lives.
“What a Day” is a daily news podcast hosted by comedian Akilah Hughes and journalist Gideon Resnick.
“Hall of Shame” is a weekly show about sports-related scandals, hosted by Fox Sports host and comic Rachel Bonnetta.
Towards the end of 2017, CM partnered with Swing Left to launch “The Crooked 7,” an initiative designed to raise money to help flip seven California House districts held by Republicans in the 2018 midterm elections.
In August 2018, CM launched “Vote Save America,” an initiative that promotes voter registration and get-out-the-vote efforts.
In August 2019, CM, through “Vote Save America,” forged a partnership with Fair Fight 2020, an organization led by Stacey Abrams and devoted to fighting “voter suppression” — a term that, by CM’s calculus, encompasses things like voter ID laws and efforts to remove invalid names from voter rolls.
Also under the umbrella of “Vote Save America, CM raised $32 million in the third quarter of 2020. Most of that sum flowed into CM’s “Get Mitch or Die Trying” fund backing Democratic candidates in competitive U.S. Senate races — in hopes of wresting control of the Senate away from Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and the Republicans.
In addition to the three founders and the aforementioned Daniel Pfeiffer, additional key members of the CM team include:
- chief content officer Tanya Somanader, who worked as a senior digital writer with Obama For America, a new media director and deputy speechwriter for Nancy Pelosi, and director of digital rapid response for the Obama White House from 2014-16
- senior manager of political campaigns EJ Baker, who worked as a communications specialist at EMILY’s List and as a digital writer for the Democratic National Committee
- assistant Juliet Beckstrand, who spent two years working in the United States Senate for Sen. Klobuchar.
CM does not take money from outside investors, but instead funds its projects with advertising revenue.