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Editorial credit: Evan El-Amin /

By Michael Dorstewitz (Originally published by Newsmax),

With a client list headed by the likes of Donald Trump Jr., Mark Meadows, Dr. Ben Carson, Peter Navarro, and Tennessee Sen. Marsha Blackburn, publicist A.J. Rice has his finger on the pulse of the modern conservative movement – and ahead of the 2022 midterms, the PR guru affectionately termed “the man behind the curtain” is stepping out of the shadows with a lifetime of advice to offer those hoping to carry the MAGA mantle.

Rice, the president of Washington, D.C.-based Publius PR, has worked in all corners of the conservative community, soaking up the knowledge and advice of mentors in television and radio and later dispensing lessons learned to promote the careers of today’s makers and shakers.

“The man behind the curtain has been everywhere over the past decade and a half, behind so many leaders you know and admire, but you never even knew he was there,” said Tim Tapp, a syndicated conservative talk radio host. “He is conservatism’s phantom menace: torturing liberalism from the shadows.”

Rice began his career navigating the halls of power by first learning to navigate city streets.

“My first campaign was working for Bob Dole in 1996,” he said. “I couldn’t even vote, but I was getting people who could vote to the polls because I could drive.”

But he began making a name for himself while working in conservative talk radio.

“I went from working on Capitol Hill to ‘The Laura Ingraham Show,’” he told Newsmax. “I was Ingraham’s executive producer, them Monica Crowley’s.”

Rice later worked for John Solomon, currently of Just The News, before he was brought in by Glenn Beck to launch the Blaze Radio Network – a job that led to a significant shift in his focus.

“Right around there, I started taking my producer hat off and started doing more media relations and PR,” he said. “So that was right around 2013 that I went from the guy getting 100 emails a day from people asking to be on my shows to the guy sending them.”

Aside from the aforementioned Trump administration officials and GOP politicians, Publius PR boasts a robust roster: Dan Bongino, Rep. Steve Scalise, Michael Savage, Roger L. Simon, Pastor Paula White-Cain, Buck Sexton, Steve Hilton, Rep. Lauren Boebert, Paul Manafort, Pete Hegseth, Newt Gingrich, and Victor Davis Hanson, to name a few.

Rice said that he’s been “totally shaped” by his past associations, specifically citing the influences of conservative media luminaries such as Andrew Breitbart, Tony Snow, Jerry Doyle, and Herb London – people he lauds as “some of the great thinkers of the last 15-to-20 years.”

Now, Rice finds himself in an unusual position: representing himself.

His recently released book, “The Woking Dead: How Society’s Vogue Virus Destroys Our Culture,” is both a diagnosis of one of the primary ills plaguing American life and a prescription for potentially eradicating it.

“The woke virus is the trendy virus that gets into our culture, and it comes in many nefarious forms — cancel culture, (Critical Race Theory), the 1619 Project,” Rice said.

The scourge of cancel culture was one of his primary motivations for writing the book.

“I’m a libertarian when it comes to censorship,” Rice said. “In the 20th century you have Graham Greene, George Orwell … Lenny Bruce — they were all censored, some were arrested.”

But, he said, that censorship is growing more insidious, more commonplace, and affecting a greater number of people.

He notes numerous examples: “If you look at what’s going on today, you have the January 6 Committee that looks very eerily like the Un-American Affairs Committee under [the late Sen. Joseph] McCarthy. Then you’ve got ‘Wokism’ coming at us. Antifa. (Black Lives Matter). We had Occupy Wall Street for a little while. The ‘Me Too’ movement to check our behavior.”

Rice terms the collection of “woke” crusades a “sort of dress rehearsal for soft authoritarianism.”

“And they take a little bit, and they wait and see whether we’ll react,” Rice said. “And when we don’t react, they’ll take the next thing, then the next.

“We have to push back, because if you keep retreating, let them assimilate our world, they’ll keep coming. You have to draw a line in the sand. You have to push back.”

Going back to America’s founding, Rice describes the country as having been launched on “an economic revolution.” Though that idea may have appeared dormant in the early part of the 21st century, Rice notes it was reawakened and reignited as a central American premise by former President Donald Trump. And he did it by pushing back.

“Trump is the ultimate counter-puncher,” Rice said. “He broke these people.”

And for Republicans to win future elections, candidates need to resist calls to run from Trump and instead follow Trump’s example.

“Do what [Virginia Gov. Glenn] Youngkin did: He was able to retain Trump’s people and energy and bring along the suburban moms,” Rice said of the underdog GOP candidate who won the 2022 gubernatorial election. “He merely put a spotlight on ‘The Woking Dead’ – the people who are in the textbooks of the government schools, the garbage about American history, letting ‘Gary’ and ‘Steve’ go into the women’s locker room, the changing of the language, the corruption of children, the lockdowns.”

Another example of a political fighter? Boebert, the GOP representative who shot to stardom soon after winning her Colorado race. But long before her November 2020 victory was secured, she sought to upend a five-term Republican incumbent in a primary battle – and when her team needed a hand with media, Rice said his phone rang.

“He said, ‘We need media. We’re going to take on a sitting Republican,’” Rice recalled. “I said, ‘OK, we’ll give you media.’ Lo and behold, her name was Lauren Boebert. She beat the Republican, and then she won the general election, and the rest is history.”

But getting elected is only half the battle.

As for advice post-election, Rice said, “You gotta keep your promises, right?” It’s another example that Trump impressed upon Republicans: “Promises made, promises kept.“

But above all, for the GOP to grow and win consistently, the establishment “nice guy” image just isn’t going to cut it anymore.

“We were always really good at losing honorably,” Rice said. “That’s the Republican Party they want – a compliant people with their mouths sewn shut.”

He added: “It’s been a while – Reagan didn’t put up with anything, but we’ve never had a fighter. The last time we had a fighter like Donald Trump was probably Teddy Roosevelt.”

(This article was originally published by Newsmax)


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