Fox News backlash hits just as it’s making its pitch to advertisers
  • Thursday, May 23, 2019
  • 80°

Fox News backlash hits just as it’s making its pitch to advertisers


    Tucker Carlson, host of “Tucker Carlson Tonight,” poses for photos in a Fox News Channel studio in New York. Carlson has drawn flak for sexist and racist comments he made during radio appearances about a decade ago.

The latest campaign to boycott Fox News sponsors comes at an awkward time for the network: It’s slated to deliver a pitch to advertisers at this week’s “upfront” presentations in New York.

Touting a new marketing slogan — “America Is Watching” — the company is looking to show media buyers that it can appeal to all Americans, rather than just conservative-leaning ones. Fox News has invited advertisers to its studio on Wednesday, marking its first such event.

At the same time, the network is navigating multiple controversies. Fox News censured host Jeanine Pirro this week after she implied the head covering worn by Representative Ilhan Omar, a Minnesota Democrat, is antithetical to the U.S. Constitution. Prime-time host Tucker Carlson, meanwhile, has drawn flak for sexist and racist comments he made during radio appearances about a decade ago.

Rupert Murdoch’s news organization has weathered similar boycott calls in the past, and it’s not totally reliant on advertising. But it’s about to become the centerpiece of a new Fox corporation that will be spun off from a merger with Walt Disney Co. later this month. That’s making the network a more important asset for Fox than ever before.

In Pirro’s case, Fox News “strongly” condemned her comments and addressed the matter with her directly, saying the remarks didn’t reflect the views of the network.

‘Bow to the Mob’

The old Tucker Carlson radio clips — recorded before he became a Fox News host — were brought to light by the liberal-leaning watchdog Media Matters. The host said on his show Monday that Fox was backing him and he wouldn’t “bow to the mob.”

21st Century Fox Inc. is slated to complete its $71 billion sale of entertainment assets — including the 20th Century Fox studio — to Disney on March 20. The remaining company will include Fox News, Fox Sports and the Fox broadcast network.

Activists such as Sleeping Giants have relentlessly targeted the network’s TV and online advertisers, part of its mission to hit the profits of outlets it believes promote bigotry and sexism. Fox News has previously said it believes Carlson is being targeted for political reasons.

This week, Sleeping Giants has been tweeting at companies such as Bayer AG, questioning why they air ads during “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” It’s also attempting organizing a protest outside the headquarters of Fox for Wednesday, the day of the upfront presentation.

AstraZeneca Leaves

The pressure seems to work on some companies. AstraZeneca Plc said on its Twitter account that it no longer advertises on Carlson’s show and won’t advertise during that hour in the future.

Fox News said it was looking forward to its advertiser presentation and wouldn’t be swayed by the campaign against Carlson.

“We cannot and will not allow voices like Tucker Carlson to be censored by agenda-driven intimidation efforts from the likes of, Media Matters and Sleeping Giants,” Fox News said in response to the AstraZeneca move.

In December, PepsiCo Inc.’s SodaStream and Pacific Life Insurance Co. were among the advertisers cutting ties with the show after Carlson made disparaging comments about immigrants. NerdWallet Inc., the personal finance company, said it hasn’t advertised on Carlson’s show since the end of last year.

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