“We cannot and will not allow voices to be censored by agenda-driven intimidation efforts,” said Jack Abernethy, co-president of the 21st Century Fox-owned cable outlet, in a statement. “We look forward to having Laura Ingraham back hosting her program next Monday when she returns from spring vacation with her children.”
The note is unusual for a corporate executive to issue on behalf of a program host, but the situation swirling around Ingraham is anything but normal. She announced Friday on her 10 p.m. program, “The Ingraham Angle,” that she would take a planned vacation even as scrutiny of her program intensified and more sponsors announced they were moving their ads out of the show.
Ingraham set off an imbroglio Wednesday with a Twitter post mocking Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School student David Hogg, one of the students who has spoken out about gun control prominently since a Feb. 14th shooting incident at the Parkland, Fla. school left 17 people dead. Her tweet linked to a report noting Hogg had been rejected from four California colleges, and also said Hogg “whines about” the rejections. In response, Hogg posted on social media a list of recent advertisers in her program culled from Media Matters, a left-leaning watchdog group, and urged followers to pressure them to remove their commercials from Ingraham’s show.
Nestle, IBM, Johnson & Johnson, TripAdvisor, Nutrish, Expedia and Hulu — a video-streaming company partly owned by Fox News parent 21st Century Fox — are among the advertisers who have said they would no longer support her program.
Media buyers said late last week that advertisers had grown nervous about being associated with the show, even as they acknowledged its sizable audience. In February, “The Ingraham Angle” drew an average of more than 2.6 million viewers, according to Nielsen. Only Fox News’ “Hannity” and “Tucker Carlson Tonight” and MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show” attracted more viewers that month. With that following — Ingraham is also a longtime radio host — advertisers could find her program difficult to ignore.
Her Friday announcement drew obvious parallels to another Fox News host who came under the microscope. Last April, Bill O’Reilly announced a pre-planned vacation just before Easter weekend in the midst of an even greater controversy. Advertisers were moving commercials elsewhere on the network after a New York Times report detailed accusations of sexual harassment levied against the host who was at the time the linchpin of the Fox News primetime lineup. He never returned to the air, fired eight days later in a letter signed by the three members of the Murdoch family most active in running Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox: Rupert Murdoch, Lachlan Murdoch and James Murdoch.
There is reason for Fox to want her to return. Her “Angle” dovetails seamlessly into a primetime lineup that was re-calibrated last fall, and is now flanked with programming anchored by two other female hosts, Martha MacCallum and Shannon Bream.
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