Billionaire Protests Decision By Fox News to Drop Trump Impeachment Ad

Tom Steyer - San Francisco City Hall Rally - Getty - H 2017
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Tom Steyer has been running an ad on television calling for Donald Trump to be impeached.

Lawyers representing California billionaire Tom Steyer are accusing Fox News of breaching a contractual agreement to air an advertisement calling for the impeachment of President Donald Trump.

In a letter addressed to Fox News co-president Jack Abernethy on Friday, Steyer's attorney claimed that the network stopped running the minutelong ad on Oct. 31 — without offering an explanation — despite agreeing to run the ad for a second week.

"We wish to protest this baseless and unethical decision," Steyer attorney Brad Deutsch wrote. "The cancellation is not only a breach of your agreement with Mr. Steyer — it is also a profound failure of journalistic integrity, a suppression of constitutionally protected speech, and likely a consequence of inexcusable political pressure."

Abernethy confirmed and explained the cancellation in a statement, saying, "Due to the strong negative reaction to their ad by our viewers, we could not in good conscience take their money."

The ad, which is reportedly part of an $11 million campaign, continues to run on Fox-owned local television stations, along with other major television networks. Steyer's campaign said that Fox News agreed on Oct. 27 to run the ad seven more times on the channel.

Steyer's attorney argued that Fox News must have been swayed by Trump's Twitter criticism of Steyer and the ad. "The only plausible explanation seems to be that Fox News capitulated to political pressure from the Trump administration itself," he wrote. "President Trump has threatened retaliation against broadcasters who provide him with negative coverage and Fox News appears to have answered these threats with servility."

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has not yet responded to a question about whether the administration explicitly pressured Fox News to stop running the anti-Trump ad.

Steyer is a prominent and well heeled liberal activist, and has rumored to be a potential candidate for office.