In response to Fox News host Sean Hannity's relentless pursuit of any apparent or alleged connection between murdered Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich and WikiLeaks, liberal advocacy groups have begun to pressure the sponsors of Hannity’s primetime Fox News show "Hannity."
A liberal media watchdog group, Media Matters, which was founded by George Soros, last week published a list of companies that advertise on Hannity’s show. The list includes more than 150 companies that have sponsored Hannity since May 1.
"Sean Hannity is a professional propagandist for President Donald Trump, as well as a bigot, a sexist, and a conspiracy theorist. As host of Fox News’ 'Hannity,' he has used his platform to advocate for authoritarian tactics toward the press, defend Trump's obstruction of the investigation into collusion between the president's associates and Russia, and attack judges who have ruled against Trump’s Muslim bans,” the group wrote of Hannity.
The hope of Media Matters, of course, is to hurt Hannity’s program by applying pressure on the advertisers to withdraw their financial support for the popular cable talk show.
In some cases, the pressure has worked. Companies TD Ameritrade, Cars.com and USAA, among others, have withdrawn their sponsorship of Hannity’s show. But in at least one case, the pressure has hurt liberal programming, too.
USAA, a banking and investment firm based in Texas, announced last week its decision to withdraw ads from Hannity’s show. But instead of citing the boycott, USAA explained it pulled its ads because advertising on Hannity’s show violated the company policy of not advertising on opinion-based shows. According to USAA, the company policy allows advertisements to appear on only news programming.
That’s when the Media Research Center, a nonprofit media watchdog, pointed out that USAA also runs ads on liberal opinion news shows on MSNBC, including shows hosted by Rachel Maddow, Chris Hayes, Lawrence O’Donnell, and Chris Matthews. It was only after the MRC noted the ads on the liberal news network that USAA announced its decision to pull them from the MSNBC shows.
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The ads were placed in error and that mistake is being corrected, said Roger Wildermuth, USAA spokesman. It wasn't clear how the ads could be placed in at least four opinion-based shows in violation of the company's policy; he didn't immediately respond to a question about whether there were more.
The campaign to boycott Hannity’s show resembles the boycott mounted against now-former Fox News anchor Bill O’Reilly, who was ousted from the network last month amid sexual harassment allegations and an advertiser exodus.
O’Reilly has said the allegations against him are untrue and the effort to oust him was an organized “hit” from the left.
Still, Hannity’s future with Fox News remains unclear.
Speculation ran wild last week after the network announced Hannity was taking an extended Memorial Day vacation. The network said Hannity would return to work Tuesday, but the Independent Journal Review reported late Friday that Hannity had gone “underground” and was seriously mulling over a departure from Fox.
When contacted over the weekend, a Fox News spokesperson simply said that Hannity has the “unequivocal support” of the network.