'Tucker Carlson Tonight' Sheds More Major Advertisers as Boycott Grows
Samsung, Pfizer (maker of Robitussin) and SodaStream all said Wednesday that they will stop advertising on the Fox News show.
Tucker Carlson Tonight, the primetime Fox News opinion show, publicly lost four more corporate advertisers on Wednesday, with Samsung, SodaStream, Pfizer (maker of Robitussin) and SanDisk joining a list of at least 16 other companies that have pledged to stop advertising on the program after its host said last week that immigration makes the United States "dirtier." (The job website Indeed.com decided in recent weeks that it has "no plans" to advertise on the show because the "site is for everyone, regardless of background or beliefs.")
Carlson did not address the backlash on his Tuesday night show, which featured a noticeably lighter advertising load than previous episodes. The hourlong program featured about 30 ads, which was down from the 36 ads the show averaged nightly in the week leading up to Carlson's comment last Thursday, and included more "house ads" for products like the streaming service Fox Nation.
On his Monday night show, Carlson was defiant and doubled-down on his remark, which he replayed and said was "true." "The enforcers scream 'Racist!' on Twitter until everybody gets intimidated and changes the subject to the Russia investigation or some other distraction," he said. "It's a tactic, a well-worn one. Nobody thinks it's real. And it won't work with this show. We're not intimidated. We plan to try to say what's true until the last day."
Carlson's employer, Fox News, on Tuesday released a statement that was even more combative than the comment the network released on Friday, when Pacific Life Insurance announced it would stop advertising on the show, kicking off the broader corporate movement.
The network's new statement directly called out three organizations that have expressed support for the advertiser backlash: the left-leaning media watchdog Media Matters for America, progressive group MoveOn.com and a newly formed social media coalition called Sleeping Giants (which previously targeted Breitbart.com's advertisers).
In response, Angelo Carusone, the president of Media Matters, said in part: "Don’t let Fox News distract, deflect, or deceive. This isn’t about Media Matters, Sleeping Giants, or activists. No one forced Tucker Carlson’s odious bigotry and fixation on white genocide conspiracy theories. And that’s what advertisers are rejecting. Rightfully so, too."
Fox News has been here before. The network's statement on Tuesday included some of the same language it used when responding in early April to an advertiser backlash to comments made by primetime host Laura Ingraham: the notion that the network "cannot and will not allow voices ... to be censored by agenda-driven intimidation efforts."
Jon Klein, the former U.S. president of rival network CNN, guessed that Fox News might be making the "calculation" that "putting up a fight will endear them further to their base, which could pay off long-term even if they lose some revenue in the short run. ... They might see the price of caving as higher than standing and fighting."
"I expect Fox News Channel to wear the animosity of advertisers as a badge of courage," said industry analyst Andrew Tyndall. "Refusing to kow-tow to the politically correct is already a crucial component on the Fox News Channel brand. I expect them to double-down on that self-image by portraying these corporations as bullied and timid, in contrast to themselves, remaining steadfast and resolute."
Some of the network's biggest stars, including Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly, have been undone in part by advertiser boycotts, though hosts like Sean Hannity have survived them.
Times have changed, though. "In the pre-Trump era, bleeding advertisers would be fatal," Klein said.
Ingraham has kept her spot on the Fox News schedule even as her ad load has not fully returned following her late March mockery of shooting survivor David Hogg, buoyed by consistently strong ratings that didn't waver during the controversy. During the first week of May, The Ingraham Angle averaged 12 ads per night, down from the 35 aired in the three days preceding the boycott, according to data provided by Kantar Media to The Hollywood Reporter at the time.
Fox News did not respond to a request for additional comment on Wednesday afternoon.