×

NBCUniversal, Fox News Pull Controversial Trump Campaign Ad

UPDATED: NBCUniversal and Fox News said they would pull a controversial Trump campaign commercial from rotation on its networks after the ad sparked criticism while appearing during “Sunday Night Football.”

Both Judd Apatow, a movie director who has worked frequently with NBCU’s Universal Pictures, and Debra Messing, an actress who is one of the stars of the NBC sitcom “Will & Grace,” took to social media after the commercial ran Sunday night to criticize the decision.

“After further review we recognize the insensitive nature of the ad and have decided to cease airing it across our properties as soon as possible,” NBCU said in a statement Monday morning. The 30-second commercial plays up the purported threat of foreign migrants entering the United States. And the spot, paid for Donald J. Trump for President and approved by President Trump, attempts to link  Luis Bracamontes, a Mexican immigrant who murdered two Sacramento sheriff’s deputies in 2014, to migrants leaving Central America.

The ad had also surfaced on MSNBC; Fox News Channel; and Fox Business Network. In a statement released Monday, Fox indicated the commercial would no longer appear on its networks. “Upon further review, Fox News pulled the ad yesterday and it will not appear on either Fox News Channel or Fox Business Network,” said Marianne Gambelli, president of ad sales for both outlets.

But the commercial has already generated millions of impressions, according to data from iSpotTV, a tracker of commercial placements. The Trump campaign spot aired eight times on Fox Business Network; six times on Fox News Channel; three times on MSNBC;  and once on NBC. Of the 21.4 million impressions the ad generated, more than 20 million came from its appearance on “Sunday Night Football.”

The networks’ decisions come days after CNN said it had turned down an opportunity to run the ad, citing issues with its tone. “CNN has made it abundantly clear in its editorial coverage that this ad is racist. When presented with an opportunity to be paid to take a version of this ad, we declined,” the AT&T-owned network said in a statement issued Saturday.

A spokesman for the National Football League said the sports organization “played no role in the airing of the spot last night.” The spokesman added:  “The NFL has no approval rights regarding campaign ads. That falls to the network that is selling the advertising and airing the game.”

The commercial appeared in NBC’s national network feed. Some advertisers – particularly political campaigns – prefer to buy local time because it’s cheaper and can be bought with more precision. Advertisers sometimes opt for stations or cable and satellite systems that operate in specific geographic regions with voters or customers that may be more desirable than people in another part of the country.

Broadcast networks typically take ads from a range of political candidates as they are mandated to give various politicians fair and equal time by the Federal Communications Commission. NBCUniversal quickly realized after the commercial’s appearance that it was more akin to an issue-based ad, according to a person familiar with the matter. Networks are not required to run those kinds of ads, and NBCU realized it had the leeway to refuse the Trump spot.

Backlash to the campaign commercial is the latest example of scrutiny being placed on media properties of all kinds in an era when consumers are increasingly polarized, particularly after the 2016 presidential election. Advertisers have pulled spots from properties ranging from “Full Frontal with Samantha Bee” on TBS; “The Ingraham Angle” on Fox News Channel; and even a revival of William Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” produced by New York’s Public Theater at times of controversy.

Asked about the networks dropping the ads on Monday, President Trump said he was not aware of it, but felt the commercials “certainly are effective.” He also said that “a lot of things are offensive.”

POPULAR ON VARIETY: 

More TV

  • The Ultimate Guide to 2019 Comic-Con

    The Ultimate Guide to 2019 Comic-Con Parties and Activations

    Hollywood is heading down the California coast to San Diego because It’s time for 2019 Comic-Con International. The annual cosplay celebration officially kicks off tomorrow, July 18, with a preview happening tonight. Here, Variety gives you a guide to this year’s parties and activations. Make sure to check back for updates. Wednesday, July 17Amazon Prime [...]

  • Ken Ehrlich Jane Ortner Education Award,

    Grammy Awards Producer Shuffle: Ben Winston to Take Over From Ken Ehrlich in 2021

    As Variety reported in December, Ben Winston will take the reins of the Grammy Awards as executive producer in 2021 after longtime telecast leader Ken Ehrlich completes his 40th ceremony next year. Winston has become a prolific producer for CBS and other outlets since he moved to the U.S. nearly five years ago to launch [...]

  • Sarah Wright Takes Charge of Sky

    Sarah Wright Takes Charge of Sky Cinema After Management Shuffle

    Sarah Wright, Sky’s top acquisitions exec, will take on responsibility for Sky Cinema after a management shuffle at the pay-TV giant. Wright fills a role vacated by Ian Lewis, who recently left Sky after 20 years. He was one of several Sky staffers to leave after its takeover by Comcast. As director of Sky Cinema [...]

  • Jodi Long Running for SAG-AFTRA Secretary-Treasurer

    Jodi Long Running for SAG-AFTRA Secretary-Treasurer on Matthew Modine Slate

    Veteran actress and union activist Jodi Long is running for secretary-treasurer of SAG-AFTRA as a member of Matthew Modine’s progressive Membership First slate. She is facing Camryn Manheim, who announced her candidacy on July 9 as part of the Unite for Strength slate for the re-election of union president Gabrielle Carteris. Unite for Strength and United [...]

  • BAFTA Backs BIFA’s Unconscious-Bias Training for

    BIFA’s Unconscious-Bias Training Rolls Out to BAFTA Voters, Wider Industry (EXCLUSIVE)

    The British Independent Film Awards is opening up its unconscious-bias training to BAFTA voters and, more widely, to anyone who judges the work of others in the film and TV business in the U.K. With the makeup of award-nominee and -winner lists under close scrutiny, BIFA introduced its unconscious-bias training last year. Its voters, jurors, [...]

  • New U.K. Film and TV Studio

    New U.K. Film and TV Studio Proposed for Leeds, in Northern England

    With studio space in high demand, a sizable new film and TV complex has been proposed for Leeds, the city in northern England that is fast becoming a major U.K. media hub outside of London. It has already been selected as the base for Channel 4’s new national headquarters, and companies such as pay-TV giant [...]

  • Jody Madden Replaces Craig Rodgerson as

    Jody Madden Replaces Craig Rodgerson as CEO of VFX Firm Foundry

    Jody Madden has been upped to CEO at U.K.-based VFX outfit Foundry. She steps up fromchief product officer and replaces Craig Rodgerson, who joined the company in late 2017. Foundry was bought by U.S. tech firm Roper Technologies earlier this year in a £410 million ($509 million) deal. The London-based business provides software and technology [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content