The passel of sponsors includes SmileDirectClub, Nautilus Inc.’s Bowflex, Ancestry.com, NerdWallet, Indeed.com and Pacific Life Insurance.
Carlson sparked the controversy during last Thursday’s broadcast, noting that he felt immigration was responsible for making the United States “dirtier.” On his broadcast Monday, Carlson said he would not be threatened by the threat of sponsors backing out of his show. “The enforcers scream ‘Racist!’ on Twitter until everybody gets intimidated and changes the subject to the Russia investigation or some other distraction. It’s a tactic, a well-worn one. Nobody thinks it’s real. And it won’t work with this show,” he said. “We’re not intimidated. We plan to try to say what’s true until the last day.”
“It is a shame that left wing advocacy groups, under the guise of being supposed ‘media watchdogs’ weaponize social media against companies in an effort to stifle free speech. We continue to stand by and work with our advertisers through these unfortunate and unnecessary distractions,” Fox News said in a statement. A spokesperson for the network, owned by 21st Century Fox, said advertisers who pulled commercials from Carlson’s show continued to run spots on the network, which had not lost any advertising revenue.
The company added on Tuesday: “We cannot and will not allow voices like Tucker Carlson to be censored by agenda-driven intimidation efforts from the likes of Moveon.org, Media Matters and Sleeping Giants. Attempts were made last month to bully and terrorize Tucker and his family at their home. He is now once again being threatened via Twitter by far left activist groups with deeply political motives. While we do not advocate boycotts, these same groups never target other broadcasters and operate under a grossly hypocritical double standard given their intolerance to all opposing points of view.”
Some other sponsors have issued statements indicated they will stay with their current schedules on Fox that include “Tucker Carlson Tonight.” Mitsubishi, Bayer, John Deere, AstraZeneca and Sanofi have all said they won’t make changes to the way their commercials appear on Fox News.
The advertiser defections are the latest to hit Fox News, which has in recent months had to grapple with polarizing remarks made by its three primetime hosts, Carlson, Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham. Many of the sponsors are placed under scrutiny by progressive activist groups, who use the hosts’ off-putting comments to galvanize support and increase pressure on primetime sponsors. Laura Ingraham has twice come under a microscope this year, once for suggesting detention facilities for children being taken from migrants entering the U.S. illegally were like “summer camps,” and also for remarks she made on social media about one of the survivors of the shooting tragedy in Parkland Florida.
Most advertisers shy from controversy, but a consumer base polarized in the wake of the 2016 election have left them with fewer buffers. Some fled the TBS program “Full Frontal” in June after host Samantha Bee used a vulgar epithet related to female anatomy to refer to Ivanka Trump, the President’s daughter and adviser. MSNBC anchor Mika Brzezinski came under scrutiny late last week after using a derogatory term for a gay man, spurring speculation that advertisers might pull support of her popular program, “Morning Joe.” She later apologized.
In June, Fox News CEO Suzanne Scott urged producers to be more mindful of “protecting the talent, protecting the brand,” a nod to some of the recent controversies generated by on-air comments from guests and others. In recent weeks, personnel including Fox Business Network’s Stuart Varney and “Fox & Friends” co-anchor Steve Doocy have taken pains to admonish guests who have made outrageous remarks. Doocy scolded musician Kid Rock in November, for example, after he referred to “The View” host Joy Behar with an epithet.