Say hello to Human Events reincarnator Will Chamberlain. In April, he bought and revamped the historic publication. I met up with him in his “office” at Farmers & Distillers in downtown Washington. He drank lemonade. His watchful, amiable publicist, Chris Barron, came in tow.
Chamberlain was and wasn’t what I expected.
He’s neither effusive or unkind. Neither warm nor like an iceberg. We shake hands and it’s time for me to try to get Chamberlain to forget — for just a moment — that he’s being interviewed.
On the way to the table, we quickly fall into a conversation about Invisalign, which he has just gotten installed into his grill, so he’s still learning how to talk properly with the contraption over his teeth. He seems entirely un-self-conscious about the whole thing. Like here I am with my Invisalign. My teeth will be realigned in about six months — if I sound weird, which I don’t, deal with it. (This is not what he says to me in words — but it’s the attitude he conveys.)
I can’t see the Invisalign, nor does he seem lispy. So if he hadn’t said anything, I would not have noticed.
Chamberlain’s attire defies his serious demeanor. Tall and bespectacled with light brown hair, he wears an unexpected anti-Washington outfit of a colorful ocean blue and orange plaid short-sleeved shirt and khaki shorts. He drinks lemonade. He looks like he’s ready for boating or an amusement park.
He’s into poker. Or, he was. So he’s got this whole poker face thing going. To be honest, I never fully get him to relax about this meeting, but at some point I just accept it. The layers begin to peel despite his careful presence.
Like poker, there are tells whether you want them to exist or not.
For example, crying. Chamberlain is not the crying type. He doesn’t wear his emotions on his colorful plaid shirt sleeve. But when I ask him to name the last time he’s cried, his answer is kind of amusing — it happens at the end of a few movies he’s seen. But it’s not ugly Oprah mascara running all of your face crying that is mortifying if it happens in public. Chamberlain describes a single tear falling out of one eye. I want to know how he achieves this sort of Hollywood face streak. But he doesn’t know. It’s just part of his DNA.
Born and raised in Cupertino, Calif., Chamberlain went to boarding school in Ojai. The school had a strict honor code. Each student had a horse. He grumbles that the horse training had something to do with building maturity and responsibility. Students got up at the crack of dawn to feed the horse and clean out the stalls.
“I was not the most into the horse thing,” he says dryly. “I was the least outdoorsy. We had to go camping too. I would’ve been better served to go to a snootier and less rustic prep school.”
Chamberlain grew up in a house with Republican parents. But he says his political leanings didn’t emerge until later. “I don’t feel that I knew anything,” he admits. “I was just aping what I heard around the dinner table.”
At 18, he began playing poker for a living. He says he won $50K in his first six months. Asked if his parents were upset about his poker career, he says, “There are a lot of books dealing with your problem gambler college…not a lot of books about dealing with your successful gambling kid.”
He says he was never addicted to gambling.
Something he is open about is his Attention Deficit Disorder. He mentions it several times throughout the interview. But like his teeth, he doesn’t seem too worried about it.
At the University of the Pacific, Chamberlain was a competitive debater, which helps his Twitter battles. In 2012, he went to Georgetown Law School and studied commercial law. He graduated magna cum laude. But like many people who go into law, he despised practicing it in real life.
In 2017, Chamberlain had a Thai lunch in Los Angeles with someone he credits with changing the course of his life and opening doors — Mike Cernovich, a men’s rights activist and conservative social media personality.
“He’s one of the most misunderstood figures in politics, period,” he says of Cernovich. “He’s portrayed as this ridiculously right-wing figure. He’s very very populist. He’s a very very smart man who came from dirt poverty who made himself a serious player by the sheer force of his will.”
I ask what he does for fun, or how he relaxes. And I half-immediately regret it. I cringe when anyone asks me this question because it usually takes a nosedive. In this case, I’m glad I asked because it’s the first time he appears to get excited. “I play video games,” he says. Also: “I troll people on Twitter.”
He has a whole philosophy about Twitter.
“I can play in your playground and make you really unhappy when I see something,” he says. “That’s my favorite thing. …I like putting progressives in uncomfortable positions.”
And this: “Twitter is a public performance. It irritates me when people forget that.”
Chamberlain bought Human Events in the spring and up until a few weeks ago he ran the operation with former Global Editor-in-Chief Raheem Kassam. At the time of Kassam’s departure, Chamberlain put out a release with changes in management. He wouldn’t elaborate. Kassam was definitely out. But when pressed, Chamberlain said Raheem still has a relationship with the publication, but refused to specify.
When I wrote my story, Raheem complained to one of my colleagues, but never spoke to me directly. He tried to say he wasn’t totally out at Human Events. Despite repeated questions, no one at Human Events ever asked me for a correction or to reframe the details. Note to Kasasm: If you wish to issue a correction on any of my stories, you will need to write me directly and on the record. You don’t have a spokesman unless, of course, you actually have one.
I obviously bring up Kassam during my meeting with Chamberlain. He immediately goes into lockdown mode. “I am not commenting on Raheem,” he says in a short, quick jab of a sentence that I think was supposed to immediately shut down this line of questioning. (RELATED: Human Events Says Sayonara To Raheem Kassam)
So I try the side door. And the window. The back door. And the roof?
I raise the issue of the interview that Kassam gave The Washington Post before Human Events 2.0 relaunched. The one in which Kassam told WaPo that because of his superb business skills, the publication would not suffer any monetary losses. “I believe that I am that good,” he said in the interview.
Chamberlain is unfazed. “It didn’t upset me,” he says. “Whenever you’re starting a new venture, you should have a confidence bordering on arrogance. I like arguing aggressively. We’re confident that we will have an impact on the conversation.”
(He eyes his publicist for approval, which he gets in spades.)
But do you want to sound like an asshole?
“Had I done it I don’t think it would have been that much different,” he tells me. “I like to think of myself as confident. Humble in the face of the craft. We think we’ll be the best at it — that’s why we’re doing it. That’s not a place where I had many issues.”
Chamberlain won’t spill what happened with Raheem, which is likely the sign of a good manager, but not too helpful for me.
“We’re trying to be a beautiful well-written magazine for the right,” Chamberlain says, summing up his publication, explaining that all their stories are opinionated. “I’m not publishing bad pieces, period, or a boring piece that wastes my readers’ time. We don’t do much clickbait. We don’t do much news.”
Hometown: Cupertino, Calif.
Named for: My great grandfather.
First job ever: A research associate for The Seasteading Institute, a non-profit think tank that promotes the creation of floating ocean cities in order to solve world problems such as “rising sea levels, overpopulation, poor governance and more.”
Current employment: Publisher, Global Editor-in-Chief, Human Events
If someone wants to get on your good side, what candy, coffee drink or liquor should they ply you with? They should get you an oat milk black and tan…mixture cold milk. It’s fire and I’m lactose intolerant.
Most exotic place you’ve ever visited: Cambodia.
How often do you Google yourself? Almost never.
Which Washington celeb is overrated? I want to say Ben Shapiro but I don’t know if he counts.
Word or phrase you overuse: Appalling and contemptible. I probably use them too much.
Book that touched your soul: “The book of disquiet by Fernando Pessoa.”
The last time you cried and why: “I always tear up at the end of Shawshank Redemption….just one. It’s true I do not cry often. The end of Interstellar. Comes from playing poker. Stoic. You learn quickly if you don’t get your emotional state under your control you’re going to die.”
CNN’s Don Lemon or Chris Cuomo? “Cuomo…he tries to understand the other side. I wouldn’t say he succeeds but he tries.”
CNN’s Jim Acosta or Playboy’s Brian Karem? Karem…I mean..he at least has an excuse, he seems like he’s drunk.
Do you watch CNN’s Reliable Sources with Brian Stelter? Why or why not? “Occasional clips on Twitter. I don’t make a weekly habit of it.”
Sen. Lindsey Graham or Rep. Matt Gaetz? “Oh, Matt Gaetz for sure. Because Lindsey is really great on judges but not on everything else.”
Who among the Democratic presidential hopefuls would you most like to dine with? “Tulsi Gabbard. I mean…any number of reasons. She’s lapping the field. She’s the best candidate period on policy and she’s gorgeous.”
You’re stuck in an elevator for 24 hours…it’s with AOC or Alyssa Milano — who do you choose and why? (Cell phones will not work.) “Oh AOC that’s easy. AOC seems cuter, smarter and more fun.”
What site do you read regularly (other than your own)? “Wall Street Journal, Twitter.”
Stolen from Inside the Actors studio: If Heaven exists, what would you like to hear God say when you arrive at the Pearly Gates? “Don’t worry about all the swearing.”
Pick one: CNN’s New Day or Morning Joe? “Morning Joe, more entertaining, awkward sexual tension.”
If you had to kiss a woman from The View who would it be? Your choices are Whoopi Goldberg, Joy Behar, Meghan McCain, Sunny Hostin, and Ana Navarro? “It would be Meghan but …I’m not even going further than that.”
Dave Weigel or Robert Costa? “Costa. Costa is awesome. Not that Weigel is terrible, but I like Costa’s work.”
Your pet’s name: “I don’t have a pet.”
Tucker Carlson or Sean Hannity? “Oh Tucker. Easy. I agree with him more than I agree with anyone I see on television. He effectively is doing a debate program. Random side note…there’s no…Jon Stewart..was wrong. It turns out. That show was really importantly. There’s no place like that now.”
Sarah Sanders or Sean Spicer? “Sarah Sanders…I like both but Sarah’s got a drollness that I appreciate.”
Kellyanne Conway or Steve Bannon? “Kellyanne…Kellyanne’s got…I like communications’s people. I appreciate people who come up with clever frames and that’s Kellyann. That’s a tough question. I like both.”
What’s the deal with Kellyanne’s marriage? “Her husband’s is a narcissist.” When I replied, “So is her boss,” he replied, “But her boss gets to be.”
Chris Hayes or Rachel Maddow? “Hayes is not fully down the conspiracy theory track. The criticisms at Mike Cernovich could easily be levied at Rachel Maddow and she has a much bigger platform.”
Anthony Scaramucci or Donald Trump? “Trump. I think Scaramucci is a narcissist. I think he’s reacting out of personal spite and not a deep moral objection. I’m not sure he believes that internally.”
Katie Tur, Hallie Jackson or Kasie Hunt? “I only know one person…if you want to put her down that’s fine.”
Oprah or Wendy Williams? “Again, I don’t know who Wendy Williams is.”
Favorite Trump expression: “Many such cases…billions and billions.”
Since this is The Mirror Questionnaire, what would you change about yourself physically if you could? “My beard is a little patchier than I’d like. I’d like it to be a little more robust.”
And your personality? “My personality is flawless…if I could snap my fingers and make ADD go away, I would.”
Preferred beach anywhere in the world: “I am partial to Half Moon Bay.”
Last show you binge-watched: “Sunderland Till I die. It’s a soccer documentary that takes the form of a greek tragedy. It’s everything going wrong for 6 hours. It’s pure Office level struggle.”
The snack you eat most: “I don’t keep snacks around the house. I eat out for most meals. I don’t like keeping snacks around. It’s just bad for me. It’s an easy thing to not do. I don’t cook a lot at home.”
Breakfast cereal of choice: “I don’t eat breakfast cereal. (Steak and eggs)”
A regret (of any kind): “I could have done more productive things with that year playing Mindcraft at 20.”
Joe and Mika or Steve Mnuchin and Louise Linton? “Mnuchin and Linton for sure. They’re awesome and they’d make a great villain pair in any Bond movie.”
Any brushes with death? “If so, please describe. I was driving on a windy two lane highway in Orgeon..two cars coming at me in both lanes…I made it on the shoulder. That would’ve been a head on collusion…Really glad I was paying attention to the road.”
When was the last time you were, if ever, naked outside? “I don’t recall. I was probably with a girl. (laughing)”
From Washington Examiner‘s Toby Harnden: If you could tell one person to their face that they’re full of shit, with no consequences, who would it be? “Ana Navarro…that would be pleasant.”
From The Daily Beast’s Lachlan Markay: Which universally acclaimed piece of literature, art, film, or music can you simply not stand? “Ballet. Bores me to tears. Oprah too.”
From SiriusXM’s Julie Mason: What is the lie you always tell about yourself? “If I knew I’d stop telling it.”
From New York Post’s Tara Palmeri: If you could give one politician or talking head a makeover, who would it be and what would you do? Pence. He wears that JOS suits. They’re not tailored right. They’re too boxy.
From motivational author and blogger Sophia Nelson: What do you want people to say about you, not when you die, but as you live? “That dude’s Twitter account is funny. I’ll go with that.”
Please provide a question for the next lucky victim of The Mirror Questionnaire. Make it good. It may live on indefinitely.
Question: “Weirdest food you’ve ever eaten.”