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When news broke that several advertisers were withdrawing ads from Sean Hannity’s show this week, many in the media world wondered whether the Fox News host was headed for a Bill O’Reilly repeat.
In April, O’Reilly, then the network’s most visible talent, was fired by Fox when advertisers fled his primetime show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” en masse after a sexual harassment scandal involving multiple reported victims became public.
Hannity hasn’t been accused of sexual harassment, but he provoked a backlash this week over his continued peddling of a right-wing conspiracy theory surrounding the murder of Democratic National Committee staffer Seth Rich in 2016, despite outcry from Rich’s parents, and the fact that Fox was forced to publicly retract its reporting on the same story.
Cars.com was first to pull its commercials on Tuesday. Later that day, Hannity announced he would take a break from talking about the Seth Rich story entirely. On Wednesday, six more advertisers followed Cars.com’s lead and, soon after that, Hannity announced he was taking Thursday and Friday off.
But Hannity is not seeing the same advertising hemorrhage that drove out his former colleague, at least not yet.
A representative of Fox News would not comment on the advertising defections, telling TheWrap that Hannity is out on a scheduled vacation and that he will be back on the air Tuesday.
“Like the rest of the country, Sean Hannity is taking a vacation for Memorial Day weekend and will be back on Tuesday. Those who suggest otherwise are going to look foolish,” a network spokesperson told TheWrap in a statement.
TheWrap reached out to all 32 of Hannity’s current primary advertisers, according to a list published by Media Matters, a progressive media watchdog. And while many who spoke with us said they are monitoring the situation, all said they would not be withdrawing advertising at this time.
Here is what some of them told us:
“We are aware of the sensitive storyline raised by Mr. Hannity and expect FOX News will use editorial discretion to ensure that all reporting is substantiated. Our decision to advertise on any media property is not an endorsement of all views and opinions expressed within it. We are not making any changes to our advertising at this time, but we reserve the right to remove our ads if the content of the programming, or behavior of those responsible for the show, distracts from our mission as a brand.”
“We are currently investigating and evaluating next steps.”
“No. I am not pulling my advertising from Sean Hannity.”
Mike Lindell, Inventor and CEO of MyPillow
“We have been receiving an overwhelming amount of feedback regarding our ad placements on Fox News and when our ads air, specifically during the Sean Hannity Show. We wanted to address these concerns immediately, however, there are a few things people need to know.
First, we are not what is called a general advertiser. General advertisers utilize an ad agency. The ad agencies are able to request when their client’s ads air. For instance, Forbes reported Cars.com started removing their ads from the show. They are a general advertiser who use an ad agency and are able to pin-point during which shows their ads air. For a full list of general advertisers who have removed their ads from the Sean Hannity Show, click here.
Unlike a general advertiser, PC Matic is a direct response advertiser. What this means is, we place orders containing rates for the air time that is remaining after the general advertisers have chosen their ad spots. Therefore, we are not guaranteed any air time at all. We simply receive whatever ad spots are available and within our order. Also, for some of the TV providers, we place orders based on what is called a ‘network cluster.’ For example, there is a ‘News Cluster’ that contained a predefined list of cable news networks such as Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, etc. So, when an ad spot clears for the cluster, we air at the same time on all of the networks within the cluster. For example, an ad that is on at 9:20 p.m. EST on Fox News, will also be on at 9:20 p.m. EST on CNN and MSNBC.
We understand the concerns expressed regarding our ads being placed during the Sean Hannity Show. It is important our customers understand, our ad placements are out of our control. We do not have an ad agency to decide when our ads air, nor do we purchase ad space based on programming. We hope our supporters understand our stance, as well as our advertising methods a bit better, now that they have been fully explained above.”
“No advertising decisions have been made beyond what has been purchased already through May.”
“Consumer Cellular advertises on Fox and does not have control over which programs air the ads. They do not have plans to pull their Fox advertising at this time. “
“We have no comment about this matter.”
“We think it’s important to state upfront our advertising has never been drawn along political lines. We advertise across the full range of the political spectrum because, frankly, our customers fall along the full range of the political spectrum. And as a brand that strives to reflect what’s best of America, we are ardent supporters of free speech. That said, we recognize on occasion people say things some find incendiary. And, when someone we advertise with articulates views that prove particularly decisive or particularly incendiary, we take such comments seriously as they can prove distracting, or at worst, damaging, to our brand and our mission. We have made the decision to cease advertising where we’ve felt necessary though recognize it is our customers who are often the ones collaterally affected.
We are closely monitoring the situation surrounding Sean Hannity ‘s recent comments regarding Seth Rich but have not made any decision, at this point, to pull our advertising. If you’ve any continuing concerns please do let me know and we can keep the dialogue going.”
Reelz told BuzzFeed that while it had no “informed opinion” on Seth Rich or Sean Hannity , the company “believes in free speech and does not participate in boycotts of any kind.”
Mercedes-Benz did not respond to TheWrap’s repeated request for comment. But the luxury car manufacturer told BuzzFeed its “rule of thumb is that we do not pull our ads based on editorial content. Our feeling is that a variety of viewpoints is part of the natural discourse that takes place in a free media.”
Meanwhile, California-based GoodRX, which according to Media Matters ran an ad on Hannity’s show on May 18, told TheWrap that “Media Matters has that wrong. I had emailed them to let them know that GoodRx is not actually a current Hannity advertiser, as they had incorrectly listed. As of last week, GoodRx is not running any TV ads, period, and has no plans to resume advertising on TV in the near-term future. (We shouldn’t have been on the list in the first place, and that’s what I was letting them know.) “
TheWrap also reached out to another 38 companies who have advertised on Hannity’s show off and on:
ZeroWater told TheWrap it had “no public position on this. Because we follow a set advertising schedule with breaks in between our ad flights, the breaks allow us to evaluate issues like this on a case by case basis and as needed.”
Century Link said its “advertising placements are never intended to be an endorsement of any specific media outlet, network, program or individual. CenturyLink reserves the right to assess and take actions it deems appropriate with respect to its advertising.”
A spokesperson for Australian Dream (which also reps Feendale Health, Dermend, Recticare, Wax Rx, and Smart Mouth) told us it doesn’t “buy the Sean Hannity show. We buy broad rotators that show up at various times of day, some of them on Sean’s show.”
The publicist went on to say: “It is sad that we live in a time when some people want to politicize everything. But all we are doing is trying to help our clients tell their story to the right audience for the best value.”
And Subaru told us: “We advertise on networks based on audience and do not evaluate shows on a day-to-day basis. We will continue to monitor the situation.”
The following primary advertisers did not immediately respond to TheWrap’s request for comment. We will continue to update the list.
Hewlett Packard Enterprise
Publishers Clearing House
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