Insurance company Pacific Life's decision to temporarily pull advertisements from Fox News' Tucker Carlson Tonight following Carlson's latest anti-immigrant statement has added fuel to growing calls for companies to stop funding the network.
On an episode of his program last week, Carlson said that American leaders "demand you shut up and accept [immigrants]. We've got a moral obligation to admit the world's poor, they tell us, even if it makes our own country poorer, dirtier, and more divided." A Pacific Life advertisement aired immediately after the monologue, provoking backlash on social media. On Friday, Pacific Life issued a statement on Twitter distancing itself from the Fox News anchor's statements. In all, over a dozen other companies have pulled their advertising from the show.
"As a company, we strongly disagree with Mr. Carlson's statements," the company said. "We will not be advertising on Mr. Carlson's show in the coming weeks as we re-evaluate our relationship with his program."
Pacific Life did not respond to Pacific Standard's requests for further comment on the issue.
Fox News blasted the social media response to Carlson's monologue that resulted in Pacific Life's decision. "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," a Fox News spokesperson told Pacific Standard. "We continue to stand by and work with our advertisers through these unfortunate and unnecessary distractions."
Farmers Insurance, Bayer, Mitsubishi, John Deere, AstraZeneca, My Pillow, and Sanofi have all continued to advertise on Tucker Carlson Tonight, according to the Fox News spokesperson.
Pacific Life's decision comes amid calls to hold companies to account for advertising with Fox News and other President Donald Trump-aligned media. James Kosur, founder of HillReporter, is among the media industry stockholders leading the charge against Fox News and other media expressing views like Carlson's. He is developing "Google Chrome and Firefox extensions that will allow Internet users to quickly determine if a product they are about to purchase is owned by a company that advertises on far-right news platforms," he says. He is currently interviewing developers. "The platform will start with a focus on Fox News, Breitbart, and Gateway Pundit and then expand from there—if it comes to fruition."
Kosur isn't alone in calling for a boycott. In October, Financial Times editor Edward Luce called on Americans to boycott Fox News' advertisers amid concerns that the network was inspiring violence and threats against Jewish Americans, immigrants, and the press. Mother Jones political writer Kevin Drum echoed Luce's call, citing information on Fox News' advertisers compiled at FoxNewsAdvertisers.com.
Following Pacific Life's decision Friday, Washington, D.C.-based writer Jordan Uhl tweeted a list of companies that he identified as Carlson's biggest advertisers. "Ask if they agree with his comments on immigration," Uhl wrote.
HillReporter's Kosur underlined Uhl's point that Pacific Life is but one in scores of advertisers who make Carlson's program possible. "Pacific Life's decision to pull advertising from Tucker Carlson's program should be the norm and not the exception," he says. "There are still hundreds of company's who choose to showcase their products and services on the network. Fox News routinely targets women, minorities, and immigrants with narratives meant to accomplish nothing more than riling up an ultra-conservative and alt-right base who want to set our country back by decades."
Pacific Standard attempted to contact all of the companies identified as Carlson's leading advertisers during the third quarter of 2018 on FoxNewsAdvertisers.com, the blog cited by Mother Jones' Drum. The blog's author explains on the site that advertisers are ranked by the number of times their advertisements appear during Fox News commercial breaks. The list includes companies like automobile giants General Motors and Subaru to online travel booking giant Expedia to seafood restaurant chain Long John Silver's.
Pharmaceutical giant Bayer distanced itself from Carlson's views, though it did not go so far as to pull its advertisements. "Opinions or views expressed by the network's news programs or their hosts are solely those of the network, and do not necessarily reflect those of Bayer," the company said in a statement emailed to Pacific Standard.
It was not immediately clear whether Carlson's comments would impact future advertisement decisions. "While our programming environment choices may not always be supported by all individuals, we have very specific guidelines to ensure our commercials air in acceptable content. That being said, we regularly evaluate our advertising placements and make sound decisions to continue or discontinue based upon our beliefs, values, and ethical considerations."
Personal finance website NerdWallet, which told NBC it was pulling its advertising from the program, offered some insight into its ad-purchasing practices: "We buy our advertising programmatically to reach a broad audience of people who can benefit from our products and financial advice. We don't specifically select or endorse individual networks or programs," a spokesperson for NerdWallet said. "Whenever we receive feedback about advertising on specific programs, we evaluate it on a case-by-case basis. If our review determines that a certain show's content doesn't align with our company values, we take commensurate and appropriate action."
Other companies seemed to go to even greater lengths to ensure they would not be associated with such views in the future. Orthodontic service company SmileDirectClub public relations director Shara Seigel says her company was "actively working with our media buyers to confirm that SmileDirectClub is no longer running our ads around any political opinion shows."
InterActiveCorp (IAC), a holding company that owns Angie's List, Home Advisor, and Match.com, says that "IAC itself does not have an advertising relationship with Tucker Carlson, Fox News, or with anyone, and we don't dictate the advertising decisions of our individual businesses, such as Match, Angie's List, or HomeAdvisor." A Match.com spokesperson said that, despite being listed on FoxNewsAdvertisers.Com, the company does not advertise with Carlson. Home Advisor and Angie's List staff did not respond to questions over their reported advertisements.
The remainder of the companies listed as Carlson's third quarter advertisers on FoxNewsAdvertisers.com did not respond to Pacific Standard's request for comment. Honda did not respond by time of publication to a request to gain access to a website featuring its company's media contact details, and a message sent to one Honda media staff email bounced back.
It remains to be seen whether the various calls from news and social media to defund Fox News will coalesce into a more formal push to hold its advertisers accountable for funding programs like Carlson's.