“It never got weird enough for me,” once spoken by Hunter S. Thompson, is an apt mantra for the dedicated fans of eccentric conservative blogger Rod Dreher. Over the last 12 years, Dreher, whose blog at The American Conservative will post for the last time Friday, has built a cult following with some of the most bizarre diatribes in opinion journalism. He has warned that so-called sissy hypnosis porn is “profoundly evil;” detailed the “formal” Catholic exorcism of a friend’s suicidal wife; and recalled—in unsettling detail—the time he witnessed a Black classmate’s uncircumcised penis.
But one particular reader, upon reading the last of said posts, determined the blog had simply gotten too weird, according to two sources familiar with the publication. That disgruntled reader was Howard Ahmanson Jr., the heir to a California banking fortune and the sole benefactor of Dreher’s six-figure salary at TAC, which is published by American Ideas Institute, a nonprofit. This unique funding arrangement—a single donor choosing to cover one writer’s entire salary—was paired with an even more unusual editorial arrangement: Dreher was allowed to publish directly on TAC’s site without any revisions or legal oversight, according to the two sources.
Dreher, Ahmanson, and Emile Doak, TAC’s executive director, did not respond to requests for comment.
Ahmanson had apparently long admired the work of Dreher, who has authored numerous conservative books and previously wrote for the Beliefnet blog and The Dallas Morning News. But according to the two sources, Ahmanson began to sour on his beneficiary in 2021, when Dreher, in a blog post debating circumcision, wrote the following: “All us boys wanted to stare at his primitive root wiener when we were at the urinal during recess, because it was monstrous. Nobody told us that wieners could look like that.” Incredibly, that was the “first red flag” for Ahmanson, one source told me, adding that the rift had been building for about a year.
Some of Dreher’s commentary on the gay and transgender communities also proved off-putting to Ahmanson, such as his lurid musings on anal sex, rectal bleeding, and the “partially rotted off” nose of a gay man who contracted monkeypox. “At some point, he basically decided, ‘This is too weird,’” the source, paraphrasing Ahmanson, explained to me. “‘I don’t want to read this or pay for this anymore.’”
And, of course, it didn’t help that the blogger, who resides in Hungary, almost caused a small geopolitical crisis last month, when he mistakenly published remarks made by Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán during a session with other friendly pundits that Dreher thought at the time was on the record. Dreher, whose stay in the country is being partially funded by a think tank with close ties to the Hungarian government, revealed Orbán’s assertions that NATO is “in a war with Russia” and that he wishes to leave the European Union, comments that ran counter to the regime’s official policies and were not meant for publication. When Dreher realized his mistake, he changed the post’s wording to suggest that Orbán had maintained his public position.
Stateside, the blog’s lack of editorial oversight has caused TAC legal headaches too. Last year, the publication settled a defamation suit out of court, per the two sources, that stemmed from a post that Dreher had written accusing a Kentucky high school student of promoting “LGBT consciousness,” bullying classmates, and “disrespecting teachers.”
As for Dreher’s future, he has said he plans to move his blog to a Substack while continuing at TAC as an editor at large and will “probably” contribute a column––this time, per the two sources, under an editor’s supervision. “I want to thank Howard and Roberta Ahmanson for their generous financial support of me at TAC for my run here,” he wrote in a Friday farewell he published after being notified of this story. Remarking that he wrote “important things” and “stupid things” during his time at TAC, Dreher closed with a nod to a post he said fit the latter category: “All you Mongoloids were the Primitive Root Wiener in my Lucky Dog, and I love you very much.”
The blog’s end marks a major change for the publication. For years, Dreher has been the centerpiece of TAC’s digital front page, and his voice has proven influential within conservative circles through many election cycles. There even appears to be a direct line between his time at TAC and J.D. Vance’s Senate victory last year: Just after Dreher’s viral 2016 interview with the Hillbilly Elegy author was released, Vance’s book received a big bump, scaling the best-seller charts.