Liberal media watchdog ratchets up pressure on Fox News advertisers
Posted October 30, 2018 12:24 p.m. EDT
(CNN) — The liberal media monitoring group Media Matters for America, a longtime critic of Fox News, is mounting an advertiser pressure campaign against the conservative news network.
Media Matters is not calling for an ad boycott, per se. But it is calling out some of Fox's biggest advertisers by name.
And Fox, in turn, is denouncing the group's "intimidation" effort.
Media Matters' president Angelo Carusone, who previously led boycotts against Glenn Beck and others, said on Monday that Fox's programming "is only getting more extreme and volatile," and that's why he is taking action now.
"Fox News' never-ending focus on demonizing political opponents and front-line communities — echoing Trump and framing the struggle against these groups as an urgent matter of life or death — makes the network an increasingly bad business decision for advertisers," Carusone said.
His comments came in the wake of a hate-filled week in America, including a wave of pipe bombs allegedly mailed to Democrats and CNN by an obsessive supporter of President Trump, and the shooting spree at a Pittsburgh synagogue that left 11 dead on Saturday.
Liberal critics of Fox, like Carusone, have pointed a finger directly at Fox, accusing the media company of inflaming tensions across the country.
Neera Tanden, the president of the liberal Center for American Progress, tweeted on Sunday, "It really is time to boycott Fox News advertisers. Who has the list? I'm game."
Carusone responded, "I can help with that."
Media Matters has been moving in this direction for a while. The group challenged Laura Ingraham and Sean Hannity's advertisers in the past.
In his statement on Monday, Carusone named "major Fox News advertisers" like Expedia, McDonalds and Capital One. Media Matters also published a list of other advertisers on its website.
Carusone urged the companies to "listen to their customers" and "consider suspending their relationship with Fox News until the network makes meaningful changes to curb its propagandistic narratives that intentionally spread disinformation and incentivize violence."
Fox, of course, disputes all of that.
In a statement to CNN, Marianne Gambelli, the president of ad sales for Fox News and Fox Business, said "we cannot and will not allow voices to be censored by agenda-driven intimidation efforts."
Gambelli also claimed that other networks share Media Matters' "extreme left-wing political agenda" -- a statement that many TV executives would surely take issue with.
"Media Matters continues to turn a blind eye to every television network but Fox News since it's the only outlet that doesn't subscribe to their extreme left-wing political agenda," she said.
Fox's ad sales executives have ample experience fending off pressure campaigns.
In April, after Ingraham mocked David Hogg, a senior at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, for getting rejected by several colleges, Hogg urged his followers on social media to contact Ingraham's advertisers. Media Matters lent a hand to his campaign.
Ingraham apologized for her mocking tweet, but many prominent advertisers distanced themselves from her program. Big advertisers are "still shunning Ingraham's Fox News show months after boycotts," Politico reported earlier this month.
In response, Ingraham depicted herself as a warrior in a fight for free speech rights.
Fox stood by Ingraham at the time and issued a similar statement that said "we cannot and will not allow voices to be censored by agenda-driven intimidation efforts."
Boycotts of this kind are attempts to hit media companies where it hurts, at the bottom line. Some activists see pressure campaigns as one of the only ways to challenge commentators who, they believe, are poisoning the public.
Hannity has been outspoken in his opposition to ad boycotts of all kinds.
"EVERY American should see the danger of politically motivated efforts and boycotts to silence speech they disagree with," he said last year.