Tucker Carlson regularly devotes his 8 p.m. hour on Fox News Channel to railing against, as he often says, “lying, pomposity, smugness and groupthink.” On Wednesday night, however, he had fewer major advertisers lined up to support his regular mission.
The host, one of the most popular on the 21st Century Fox-owned cable-news network, tried to add more context to remarks he made last week about immigration that has spurred a protest by progressive organizations that is pressing advertisers on the show to place their commercials elsewhere on the network. Wednesday night’s broadcast of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” appeared to contain a heavier amount of direct-response commercials and promos for various Fox News and Fox Broadcasting programs, and only a handful of commercials from larger advertisers.
Carlson sparked the controversy during last Thursday’s broadcast, noting that he felt immigration was responsible for making the United States “dirtier.” On his Monday program, 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.”
SanDisk, Samsung, SodaStream, Pfizer Inc., IHOP, Nautilus Inc.’s Bowflex, Ancestry.com, NerdWallet, Indeed.com and Pacific Life Insurance are among the advertisers who have indicated they won’t run ads during Carlson’s program.
Fox News has defended is host. “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,” the company said in a statement Tuesday. “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. A spokesperson for the network said advertisers who pulled commercials from Carlson’s show continued to run spots on the network, which had not lost any advertising revenue.
Carlson on Wednesday night tried to add more context to the argument, during a segment with attorney Alan Dershowitz, who chided him for the words he used. “I wish you hadn’t used that langauge,” said Dershowitz.
Carlson said critics had taken his comments out of context. “I would never describe people as ‘dirty’,” he said, noting that people who are “mischaracterizing” what he said “are always welcome on the show to talk it through.”
The host is facing a problem that personalities ranging from his Fox News colleague Laura Ingraham to TBS satirist Samantha Bee have encountered in recent months (Both sparked advertiser defections earlier this year with controversial remarks). Advertisers have proven more willing to cut ties with specific programs since the 2016 election, fearful that a barrage of social-media critiques will tarnish their image and standing. When that happens, TV networks are usually forced to fill time with promos for other properties and direct-response advertising, which typically costs less that standard commercials because TV networks have leeway to put it on the air at times of their own convenience.
Wednesday’s broadcast of “Tucker Carlson Tonight” aired with four ad breaks, many of them stacked with promos for other Fox News programs and Fox Broadcasting series like “The Passage” and “9-1-1.” Should the controversy around the program dissipate, its commercial breaks will likely contain more ads from big national brands, If it continues, Fox News will probably use a similar mix of pitches between Carlson’s segments.