Orbitz Backs Fox News Channel Amid Media Matters' 'Smear Campaign'

The liberal media watchdog group's new DropFox campaign also is urging Netflix, Best Western, Priceline, Delta Airlines, Ocean Spray and Southwest Airlines to pull all of their ads from the network.

Media Matters is gearing up to target a half-dozen of the Fox News Channel's advertisers -- Netflix possibly being one of them -- though Orbitz Worldwide on Thursday stuck up for the nation's top cable news outlet.

Orbitz, which is the first target of a campaign launched at DropFox.com -- a new website from the liberal media watchdog group Media Matters -- on Thursday also accused Media Matters of a "smear campaign."

DropFox's goal is to pressure advertisers into either pulling their ads from Fox News or forcing Fox to alter its usually conservative messages. DropFox focused on Orbitz first because among its assets is a travel website dedicated to gays and lesbians, a community Fox News is antagonistic toward, according to DropFox.

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There are six other companies DropFox has set its sights on: Netflix, Best Western, Priceline, Delta Airlines, Ocean Spray and Southwest Airlines. All of them advertise on Fox News, but not in order to make any sort of perceivable political point.

In the case of Netflix, in fact, CEO Reed Hastings has been a large donor to Democrats, so he's presumably on the same political side as Media Matters and its DropFox offshoot. Likewise, the Orbitz Political Action Committee made just two large donations last year, both to Nevada Sen. Harry Reid, a Democrat.

In fact, though, it's exactly those sorts of progressive credentials that make a company worthy of criticism if they advertise on Fox News, said Ilyse Hogue, a Media Matters senior adviser.

"These are companies that quite honestly aren't reaching their stated demographic. They have more to lose than gain by advertising on Fox," said Hogue. "Most of them are tilted in the direction of caring about the environment, civil rights -- the things Fox News has systematically spoken against."

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Fox News advertisers like Goldline International, therefore, are of little interest to DropFox because they target their ad buys to shows that attract a conservative audience.

While Netflix and the other five are listed alongside Orbitz at the DropFox website, Hogue said conversations with them are underway and she's not sure which one will be its focus after Orbitz.

A Netflix spokesman said he wasn't aware of any such discussions and declined to comment further. The other companies did not respond to requests for comment.

"Our goal is to make sure everyone who provides a platform for this politically tinged content is aware that that's what they're doing, and that there are consequences to that," said Hogue.

Media Matters employs 90 people who search for right-wing "misinformation" in the news, and their focus has increasingly been on Fox News. In 2008, about 33% of its research efforts were dedicated to Fox News, while nowadays it's 55%, and look for that to grow with the launch of DropFox.com.

In Orbitz, though, DropFox may have already bitten off more than it can chew. The company is not only refusing to buckle under the pressure -- which includes an online petition signed by 40,000 people asking it to ditch Fox News -- but it is striking back at Media Matters, warning the organization it is risking its credibility by attacking Orbitz.

"This is a political organization that has been funded pretty extensively to go after one network, and we aren't going to engage in that fight," Orbitz spokesman Brian Hoyt said.

"We have a strict policy of tolerance and non-discrimination, and that means we don't favor one political side over another. Tolerance is a two-way street," he said. "We're going to advertise on conservative TV stations, liberal TV stations and -- if there are any out there -- unbiased news broadcasts."

DropFox is basing its assertion that gays and lesbians are maligned at Fox News on several clips from The O'Reilly Factor and Bill O'Reilly's former radio show, as well as things Mike Huckabee has said before he became a host of his own TV show on Fox News.

Several times O'Reilly or a guest has made the point -- sometimes rather comically -- that if outlawing gay marriage is a violation of civil rights, then outlawing all sorts of various marriages must also be a violation. The slippery slope could lead to people marrying turtles [watch the video below] and ducks [listen here], and has already led to a woman "marrying" a dolphin [watch here].

The Huckabee offense has him linking homosexuality with necrophilia during a Meet the Press interview three years ago .

The evidence DropFox and Media Matters have provided Orbitz was not convincing.

"We haven't bowed to any boycott in the past, and we won't bow to these types of smear campaigns in the future," Hoyt said.

"What they're doing is distorting our record. We don't care about your sexual orientation, religion or gender; we preach tolerance," he said. "Our commitment to the LGBT community should not be at question -- at all."