(John Gress / Getty Images)

(John Gress / Getty Images)

People are sounding the alarm about the extremist views of the new owner of Newsweek, which recently relaunched. Johnathan Davis has some odd connections in his past to be controlling a journalistic enterprise that claims to be unbiased and sound:

The relaunch has, however, focused new attention on the young and relatively inexperienced men now at the helm of the newsweekly: Davis, 31, and Etienne Uzac, his 30-year-old business partner, whose company IBT Media bought the magazine last August and detached it from the Daily Beast, with which it had merged three years earlier.

Davis, a Californian electrical engineering graduate, is IBT Media’s chief content officer. Uzac, a French-South African economist, is its chief executive. The smartly suited pair have a confident sales pitch for the firm and are pursuing an aggressive expansion plan. They say that their online media outlets already reach 40 million unique users a month.

But they come with a backstory that is unusual for the mainstream media. The pair started their company in 2006 reportedly after meeting via Christian fellowships, and have frequently been the subject of reports linking them to David Jang, a controversial Korean pastor who is also the founder of Olivet University, an evangelical school based in San Francisco, California.

Davis has, in the past, linked approvingly on his Facebook to the work of Christopher Doyle, perhaps the most unhinged, unreliable “ex-gay” charlatan in America, who has admitted that he tried to molest the little girls in his mother’s daycare when he was younger. From the original linked article:

In a Facebook post in February 2013, Davis described as “shockingly accurate” an op-ed article written by Christopher Doyle, the director of the International Healing Foundation (IHF), which works to convert gay people. Davis said it “cuts like a hot knife through a buttery block of lies”.

Doyle, who once identified as gay but is now married to a woman, wrote that “same-sex attractions” are typically felt by people born with a “sensitive nature” and then subjected to “early sexual initiation and/or sexual abuse” or unusual attachment issues with their parents. He said last week that he was delighted by Davis’s praise. “Considering how much of the media is very gay-friendly, this is a breath of fresh air,” he said.

Davis claims, however, that his personal beliefs have no bearing on his role at Newsweek:

When asked if he believed that gay people could be cured, Davis said: “Whether I do or not, I’m not sure how that has any bearing on my capacity here as the founder of the company. I’m not sure how it’s relevant. People believe all sorts of weird things. But from a professional capacity, it’s unrelated.” The post was then removed from his Facebook page.

Time will tell whether that is true. Davis did release a statement shortly after this news broke, reiterating his support for diversity in the workplace:

Hi all.

I want to reiterate to all of you that our company, myself included, has and always will respect diversity in our workplace. This is reflected not only in our daily work but also in our hiring and personnel practices. Our team members are hired and retained based solely on their ability to perform the task.

We welcome and support a diverse range of opinions and values. We believe this diversity is critical to success as a world-class journalism organization, and also creates a richer and more productive culture and environment for all of us.

We hope he’s telling the truth. Of concern, though, is the fact that Newsweek’s new parent company, IBT, has indeed funded anti-gay discrimination:

Davis’ wife Tracy Davis is the president of Olivet University. The Guardian confirmed that besides hiring Olivet students to work for its media properties, IBT has also donated money to the college.

Guidebooks from the university’s business and journalism schools state that the university will take “disciplinary action” against students who violate “Christian standards,” including by participating in “homosexual activity.” Olivet places “homosexual activity” on a par with “drunkenness,” drug use, “cheating, plagiarism, forgery, lying,” and sexual harassment.

If Davis runs Newsweek with integrity, then his personal beliefs are of little consequence. However, he has in no way proven himself, and thus this is a story that we will have to monitor closely.