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Owner of Out and The Advocate, Adam Levin, talks to us about anti-LGBT donation controversy

Owner of The Advocate and Out talks to us about donating to an anti-LGBT politician.
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Adam Levin

In a recent story reported by Women's Wear Daily (WWD) titled "Out Magazine, Pride Media Rife With Challenges for New Editor," Author Kali Hays paints a pretty unstable picture of what new editor in chief of Out Magazine Phillip Picardi is getting himself into when he moves into his new office this year.

The article is very articulate and detailed in explaining the ins and outs of publishing including investor turnovers, losses in profit, and payroll redesign. Adam Levin and his brother Maxx Abramowitz bought both Out and Advocate under their new holding company Pride Media. Levin is also the CEO of High Times Holdings (HTH), publisher of High Times Magazine. 

But the article also contains something unexpected and that is calling out the new owners for not only being "relatively disinterested in the community" but supporters of anti-LGBT politicians, something that is in stark contrast to the very mission of both publications.

Hays mentions a few questionable Republicans who have allegedly received funds from Levin, but gave salient focus to one in particular: the very anti-LGBT Dana Rohrabacher who they say is, "praised on this year’s High Times’ list of cannabis supporters."

I spoke with Levin and he doesn't deny doing it, he's honest in his remark, "This was derived from a fired employee who was upset," he said. "I have donated to politicians on both sides of the aisle, most from my support of pro-Israel candidates."

As for Democrats, Levin has given money to Adam Schiff, Gavin Newson, Jon Chiang, and Dan Adler. He was Campaign Manager for Adler's bid to win the California's 36th Congressional District seat.

Levin says the story stems from his High Times support of Rohrabacher who he's met twice and calls "a crazy old man that has been supportive of the cannabis industry."

He says he is cautious about donating to politicians because "things could come up if I supported the wrong ones, but can’t stop one's actions after you support [them]." 

One of the most likable aspects of Levin's personality is his honesty, he's proven that quality time and time again; openly admitting that he enjoys cannabis, proudly proclaiming he's a "flower guy." 

Yet the Levin I talked to also seemed genuinely hurt that someone, who he says he got to know professionally and as a friend would want to do him harm. In this highly-politicized environment where LGBT rights are being attacked, business owners and other public figures need to be aware of who they endorse.

Levin is straight, running not one, but two historic LGBT publications and some might perceive his sexuality could influence the focus or lack thereof of the company. But he says that's far from the truth.

"Any employee would tell you I have personally invested in the LGBT community and couldn’t be more of a supporter," he said.

The story has wound around the internet, eventually picking up momentum then slithered back to bite him rather painfully. "I can’t imagine someone rationally thinking this but obviously people believe what they read," he said. "And this has been hurtful and led to both my brother and I receiving hate mail and personal attacks."

For Levin it is very personal, I got the feeling that he wasn't backpedaling but genuinely shocked that this writer's source would suggest he endorses homophobia. "Say that the company is having growing pains — fine I get it," he said. "Don’t attack us personally when so many aren’t nearly as supportive."

I spoke with openly gay Chief Executive Officer of Pride Media, Nathan Coyle, who said Levin will be more careful of who he gives money to in the future. It's a valuable lesson about the power of the media and the reach of LGBT community. 

Levin is moving on from this and says he is looking forward to working with the most proficient team that the media company has seen in a few years to help the brands thrive. "Our crew are all amazing and gifted people and without a doubt some of the most talented people I have ever worked with."