A coalition of activist groups is protesting in front of Fox News Headquarters in New York City today to bring attention to the network's recent controversies—as the cable channel tries to woo companies in the wake of a number of high profile advertising defections.
"The message to companies and their media buyers is clear," said Angelo Carusone, the president of watchdog group Media Matters for America, one of the organizers of the action, in a statement. "No matter what time of day you advertise on Fox News, you support the network's extremism and bigotry."
Fox will host advertisers Wednesday morning in an attempt to deflect recent defections from companies wary of comments by the network's hosts and the increasingly bad reputation of the channel. Fox "Tucker Carlson Tonight" host Tucker Carlson is currently weathering a storm over his appearances on "The Bubba the Love Sponge Show" radio show, where Carlson made misogynistic, homophobic, and racist comments and appeared to excuse child rape.
Jeanine Pirro, whose show "Justice with Judge Jeanine" is reportedly a favorite of President Donald Trump, provoked outrage days earlier with a segment on her show in which she implied that Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) was incapable of loyalty to the Constitution because Omar, one of the first two Muslim women ever elected to Congress, wears a hijab.
That's made companies wary of airing commercials on the channel. In a report on the meeting, Variety reporter Brian Steinberg noted that the motivation for keeping existing advertisers and enticing more of them is heightened when many Fox company properties are about to be sold to the Disney Company.
Keeping the ad dollars flowing at Fox News is critical – not only for the network, but for its parent company, 21st Century Fox. At some point in the next few months, Fox is slated to sell the bulk of its cable and studio assets to Walt Disney Co. The remaining company, known as Fox Corporation, will rely on not only Fox News and Fox Business Network, but Fox Sports and Fox Broadcasting. The Fox News unit has contributed around 20% of the overall company’s operating profit. In a pared-down structure, it might be more.
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The protesters, too, are well aware of that financial drive to keep the ad dollars flowing.
"Let's make sure ad buyers know what they're sponsoring when they advertise on Fox News," reads the protest event description on Facebook, "bigotry and hate."
"Let’s make sure ad buyers know what they’re sponsoring when they advertise on Fox News: bigotry and hate."
According to a press release from communications firm Unbendable Media, Media Matters will be joined at the protest by "CREDO, Rise and Resist, Free Press, Daily Kos, Lady Parts Justice League, Brave New Films, UltraViolet, Working Families Party and United We Dream." The Women's March and the Council on American-Islamic Relations are also attending with their members. The action is expected to go from 11 AM to 12 PM.
Yesterday, we asked you to add your name to our petition to #DropTucker. 10k of you signed in just one day.— Women's March (@womensmarch) March 12, 2019
Tomorrow, we’re gathering outside Fox News HQ in New York City to demand ALL the companies that advertise on ALL Fox News shows #DropFox.
Join us: https://t.co/QdsRVmYwb0 pic.twitter.com/79YUcFgHSx
Fox has tried in recent years to differentiate between the "news" and "opinion" aspects of its programming. Noting that, Carusone said that the network's attempts to downplay its reliance on bombastic right wing rhetoric won't fly this time.
"Quarantining your ads to only a small subset of programs will not insulate your brand from public rebuke when Fox News' next controversy strikes," said Carusone. "Both the 'news side' and the 'opinion side' are cogs in the same propaganda machine."
"The network as a whole is the problem," Carusone added, "not merely a few prime-time hosts."