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The Snarkiest Man in Memphis

The life and times of Wonkette writer and Memphian Evan Hurst.

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Wonkette.com editor/writer Evan Hurst has called Sarah Palin "Our Lady of the Mesquite Moose-Scented Denali Farts" and Mike Huckabee a "presidential candidate and sometimes conjugal-visit-sex lover of Kim Davis." But he makes certain to protect his journalistic integrity by following that moniker with an all-caps "ALLEGEDLY!"

Speaking of Davis, the Kentucky county clerk who was briefly jailed for refusing to issue marriage certificates to same-sex couples, Hurst wrote a Wonkette article in September comparing Davis' jail sentencing, which happened on a Thursday, to Jesus' sentencing before Pontius Pilate. (For all you heathens, that's when Jesus was sentenced to die on the cross, and Jesus was sentenced on a Thursday, too).

That piece opens with "And lo it shall come to pass that on Thursday, the third of the month of September, that Kim Davis, clerk of Rowan County, Kentucky, will be taken before the high priest, and all the chief priests ... the chief priests and the whole Sanhedrin will seek evidence against Davis so they may put her to death, but they will not find any, because the United States doesn't put people to death for being a dirty adulteress ... Instead they'll probably just find her in contempt of court for refusing to do her job for Bigot Reasons."

''It's probably my favorite thing I've written for Wonkette," says Hurst, who grew up in a religious household in Germantown, became an atheist, and says, "I'm somewhere in the Christian tradition, though I'm not sure where. Let's just say I'm a hopeful agnostic who likes Jesus."

Hurst is one of only three full-time staff writers at Wonkette.com, an online political satire magazine best-known for snarky social commentary, intentionally misspelled words for comedic effect, and lots of dick jokes. But they do all that while managing to present actual journalism and reliable reporting.

Wonkette is a national publication, so its writers are scattered all over, but Hurst lives in Memphis, and he cooks up his sarcastic columns from the comfort of his Cooper-Young home.

Ben Carson, Chick-fil-A, and Josh Duggar! Oh My!

Hurst posts multiple articles on Wonkette daily, averaging about 21 posts per week. And the topics range from whatever wacky idea Ben Carson is spouting that day (like that time he backed up Donald Trump's claim of seeing a video of American Muslims partying it up on the Jersey Shore after 9/11 and then later admitted that maybe he was confusing New Jersey with the Middle East) to sex tips from Jim Bob Duggar, the father of accused molester (or as Hurst calls him "nasty-ass scum pervert") Josh Duggar and 18 other kids made famous from their TLC reality show 19 Kids and Counting.

The latter focused on a post the elder Duggar wrote about preventing sexual deviance by removing books, magazines, and other media "that have worldly or sexual content."

"Well, praise Jesus, because Jim Bob Duggar knows how to keep your wangdoodle sparkly clean for Jesus and your broodmare wife," Hurst wrote.

From the patio at Bar DKDC, one of his favorite haunts, the 35-year-old Hurst discusses his style over Wiseacre beers. He's a self-professed introvert, but you'd never know from talking to him. He's constantly cracking jokes, and he cusses like a sailor.

"I write about anything and everything," says Hurst, who showed up to the interview in a Wonkette T-shirt. "You always end up getting your pet things when you're a writer — some more serious, some less serious. The first two stories I posted on Wonkette this morning were one on Kim Davis (I read the 126-page appeal they filed in the Sixth Circuit) and one on which one of the Duggars is going to have sex next. Those are two pet things of mine."

His style is snarky and filled with witty one-liners, even when he's writing about far more somber topics, like last week's mass shooting in San Bernadino.

His piece the day after the shootings was a harsh critique (a style he calls "journalism 'splaining") of the mainstream media's tendency to sensationalize and jump to conclusions before the facts are known. Although more is known now on the shooters' possible links to radical Islam, not much was known on the day after the shooting, yet mainstream networks were all over the terrorism angle.

From that story: "There are theories flying around: that it was an act of workplace violence after Farook's stapler was stolen one too many times, or maybe he was a hardened jihadist doing ISIS in Southern California. (Fox News is already committed to the DUH, OBVIOUS conclusion that of course it is radical Islamic terrorism, just like in Paris, because Farook had a Muslimy name and his co-shooter's name is just plain 'weird.') We don't know yet, and neither does Fox News, and neither does your right-wing uncle."

Most of the time, though, Hurst's commentary focuses on less tragic stories of national interest. As a gay man, he tends toward stories that affect the LGBT community. Last month he wrote about the "wing-nut gay-hatin' fans of Chick-fil-A" being up in arms about a Nashville Chick-fil-A franchise's sponsorship of an LGBT film festival.

Since he's located in Memphis, Hurst has the upper hand when a Memphis story goes viral. In September, he picked up on a story originally broken by the Flyer about Christian Brothers High School senior Lance Sanderson, who wasn't allowed to bring his male date to prom.

Wrote Hurst: "The all-male Christian Brothers High School in Memphis — which SCIENCE FACT, was yr Wonkette's rival high school back in the day, so you already know how many bags of dicks we think it sucks — has come up with a whole new thing in its desperate attempts to let this gay kid know how much the school hates him."

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Growing Up Gay and Religious

Hurst spent his early years in Little Rock, but his family moved to Memphis when he was 12, so he thinks he's lived here long enough to claim "Memphian" status. He went to Germantown High School for a while but finished up his studies at Briarcrest Christian School.

"My parents are good, normal Christian people who live in the suburbs," Hurst says. "We had gone to a church that I don't care about naming. You won't get much better church music in town than there, but their theology is insane. When you combine Calvinism and predestination — the whole idea that God decided before anyone was born who would end up saved and who wouldn't — you get an attitude that's very, very rigid."

Right after high school, Hurst worked in the church music department as an intern, singing and playing piano. A classically trained pianist, Hurst was certain at the time that he was headed for a music career. He majored in piano performance at the University of Memphis.

"I didn't finish. I left school like a common gadabout. Part of it was that I started to realize that I wasn't sure what I wanted to do with my life. Existential crisis right there," Hurst says.

He quit his job with the church shortly before coming out at age 19. His pastor had made some anti-gay remarks in a sermon. And Hurst says he thought, "Am I really sitting here in the Republican Party of Prayer Memphis Country Club Church hearing this?"

He got a job at the Borders bookstore in Germantown. Many of his coworkers were also gay, and he says it was the first place he saw "out, happy, gay people." He officially came out to a manager there before he came out to his parents. His parents struggled with the realization that their son was gay, but they eventually came around, and he has a good relationship with them now.

Hurst also spent 10 years as a knife peddler with Cutco, the direct-sales knife purveyor that employs mostly college students as independent salespeople. He credits the job with teaching him to be "assertive without being an ass."

Hurst was still selling knives when he took on a job in 2010 as the social media director (and later as the associate director) for Truth Wins Out (TWO), a national organization aimed at taking down religious ministries that focus on reparative therapy that claims to "cure" people of homosexuality, often dubbed the "ex-gay movement."

"At that time, I realized I had loud opinions that I wanted to share. I was in the very beginning of the process of learning how to harness that and make it productive," Hurst says.

Hurst was ideal for the job, since one of the most well-known ex-gay organizations was the Memphis-based Love in Action (LIA). In its heyday, LIA was headed up by John Smid, a man who once claimed he'd been cured of homosexuality, and it operated a widely criticized youth "straight camp" known as Refuge.

LIA turned its focus to adults-only treatment and ended its Refuge program in 2007, a couple of years after it made national headlines when gay youth Zach Stark posted a Myspace entry about being forced into the program by his parents. Smid resigned in 2008. He denounced reparative therapy and came out as gay in 2011. He's now married to a man.

By the time Hurst took the job at TWO, Smid was already out of the picture, but Hurst's job as social media director was focused on the national ex-gay movement, which was very much alive and well in 2010.

"As social media director, I was making things up as I went along. I was doing a lot of writing [on TWO's website] and trying to build an audience," Hurst says. "There was a lot of improvisation and creativity. But I'm kind of a jack-of-all-trades, at least in areas that I know," Hurst says.

Around the same time in 2010 that Hurst started with TWO, he began freelancing a semi-regular column on Wonkette called "The Homosexuals," a tongue-in-cheek report on "what the homosexuals are doing to society." But as his responsibilities grew at TWO, his freelancing fell by the wayside.

In recent years, though, more and more former ex-gay leaders have denounced reparative therapy. Leaders like Smid and former Exodus International president Alan Chambers and former Exodus chairman John Paulk have made formal apologies to the gay community for the harm the ex-gay movement caused. Hurst saw the need for TWO diminish as the movement changed, and in February, he contacted Wonkette publisher Rebecca Schoenkopf about getting back into freelancing for the site. Within a few months, Schoenkopf had moved Hurst into a full-time role. In addition to writing for the site, Hurst also serves as its social media director, meaning he's responsible for Wonkette's tweets.

"Evan is disgusting, and he's my favorite person in the world," Schoenkopf says.

Wonkette Value Added

Hurst and other Wonkette writers pride themselves on being more than just a news aggregator site. When a piece goes up on Wonkette, it typically contains new information or an angle not covered by the national media.

"If we write about something on Wonkette, there has to be what we call the 'Wonkette value added.' You might not hear about something from us the second it happens, but for our readers, they'll see a big story happen, and their reaction is 'I can't wait for Wonkette's take on this,'" Hurst says.

Take, for example, Hurst's piece on Troy Goode, the Memphis man who died in police custody after being hog-tied. Goode had taken LSD before a Widespread Panic concert in Southaven, and when he began acting erratically, his wife attempted to drive him home. She pulled over in a parking lot on the way home. Police were called, and they attempted to restrain Goode by hog-tying him. He died in Southaven police custody at the hospital.

The Mississippi state autopsy report is claiming Goode overdosed on LSD, which, as Hurst reports in his story, is highly unlikely. Rather than simply rehashing what other Memphis media had reported, Hurst did some original reporting, comparing how much LSD was in Goode's system (1.0 nanogram) to a 2008 Harvard Medical School study that looked at eight test subjects who had between 10 and 70 micrograms per milliliter of LSD in their bloodstreams. There are 1,000 nanograms in a microgram. Hurst mentions in his article that while some of those test subjects experienced comas and respiratory problems, none died.

"If we are doing our back-of-the-napkin math correctly, Troy had approximately A FUCKTON less acid in his system than the research subjects we just mentioned, who, again, did not die," Hurst wrote.

Hurst prides himself on accuracy. Lately, he likes to point out that none of Wonkette's San Bernadino coverage has been retracted.

"We're dirty and vulgar, but we also pride ourselves on being one of the most accurate websites that we know of," Hurst says. "When you read about a bill or a Supreme Court decision or a court filing on Wonkette, you can be sure that the author read the thing first. We have the source material."

Wonkette.com was founded in 2004 by Gawker Media. Its founding editor Ana Marie Cox has gone on to work as the Washington correspondent for GQ and as the lead blogger on U.S. politics for The Guardian. The site went through a few editors and another owner before Schoenkopf purchased it in 2012. Schoenkopf has a background in alt-weekly journalism, having previously worked for OC Weekly, the Santa Barbara Independent, and LA CityBeat.

"In the early days, there were like a million posts a day, and they were a paragraph long with a link to something. Now it's longer form, and each article should have an entire argument within it, instead of just like, 'here's a thing,'" Schoenkopf says. "I think it's really well-done by smart people with a lot of institutional knowledge."

The Wonkette style is unique in that each writer puts a personal spin on stories through any combination of made-up words, cursing, or run-on sentences.

"Some people see the style, and it personally offends them. For other people, it might take a minute, but then they're like, 'Oh, I get it. [The writers] really are smart people,'" Schoenkopf says.

Hurst is a fan of cursing, dick jokes, and funny asides written in parentheses and in all-caps. For comedic effect, he also likes to use phrases and slurs that he knows may offend some, but that's his way to address what he sees as a tendency among liberals to be overly politically correct.

"There's a reason I use phrases like 'the gays and the BLTs' for the LGBT-whatever-it-is community. We call all kinds of people on our own side funny things," Hurst says. "But it's like, get over yourself. There's this sort of humorlessness that has taken over on a lot of the left that says we can't even laugh at ourselves anymore."

He crafts his vulgar prose from his home computer, likely with his 11-year-old dog Lula at his feet. He lives alone, since he's "hopelessly single," which suits him just fine, since he says writing for Wonkette is a 65- to 70-hour-a-week job.

"It's always a struggle. I work on weekends too. It takes a lot just to make that happen, week after week. And then you have days where we have a presidential debate or when the name-a-shooting-here happens. Those days are completely different. That's a whole different schedule," Hurst says.

"If there's a debate, I'm going to work a whole day, starting at 7:30 a.m., and, hopefully before the first debate, I'll have an hour to do whatever — eat some food, play Scrabble on my computer, or whatever. And then we're live-blogging, and then you get to the end of it, and it's 10 p.m. Then you have to figure out what happened in the debate that deserves its own individual story the next day. I wouldn't be doing it if I didn't love it. But it's a very time-consuming job."

He's so busy writing for Wonkette that Hurst says he's completely let his passion for music fall by the wayside. He used to play at Mollie Fontaine, but he hasn't done that in a while.

"I want to get back into it. It's one of those things on my to-do list, forcing myself back into writing music and singing," he says. "It's a big thing to find the time."

For now, though, Hurst is making a different kind of music — the kind where he writes lyrical blog posts about gun-crazed Nevada Assemblywoman Michele Fiore's Christmas card, which features the lawmaker posing with her entire family — even the 5-year-old grandson — posing with an arsenal of Glocks and assault rifles (The large-breasted Fiore famously released a 2016 calendar filled with pictures of herself in tight clothing, posing with guns).

Wrote Hurst: "For liberals, it is the War on Christmas season, where we get up every single day at early-o-clock to receive our marching orders for how to make the baby Jesus cry in his manger. REAL AMERICANS, though, are sending Christmas cards, with reindeer and funny faces and nativity scenes and #familyjokes. And boobs and guns. Mostly boobs and guns."

Random Thoughts

As you might imagine, Hurst has a few strong opinions. Here are some of the Flyer's favorite quotes from our interview with him.

On Kim Davis: "[She] actually said this is a heaven or hell issue — doing her job as a representative of the government. You mean to tell me that she literally thinks that her belief system says this loving God she found four years ago who gave her life is going to turn around and throw her in hell because she signed a gay marriage license? That's stupid. That's a dumbass belief."

On Ben Carson: "This guy, the poor thing, we think his brain is broken. I don't understand how that's the same person who walked into an operating room and said 'I'm going to operate on your brain.' We think something happened, and his brain is broken."

On the presidential race: "The Republicans ... don't know what the hell they are doing. They have such high hopes, and I'll eat my words if something happens, but I don't see any of those Republicans having a prayer against Hillary Clinton. I wouldn't say that about Bernie [Sanders], but I'd say that about Hillary. They've lost their last scandal with Benghazi."

On disgraced former Congressman Aaron Schock, who resigned in March after he was caught spending government funds on lavish office décor, new cars, and a personal photographer, among other things: "There are the long-standing rumors about him being gay — you can look at his Instagram and draw your own conclusions. We never explicitly said he was, but we implied it. A lot. Regardless, he was misusing taxpayer funds to do all of these elaborate, ornate things for himself, starting with the office [decorated in the style of TV show Downton Abbey]. And then you find out about his hot, personal photographer Jonathon with an 'O.' And you see how Jonathon gallivants around the globe with him. He took him to India on what I imagine was a completely romantic trip. Not that I'm saying he's gay."


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