Why Does Fox News Keep Losing Major Advertisers for Prime Time?

Steve Doocy, Mary J. Blige, Elisabeth Hasselbeck, and Tucker Carlson appear on 'Fox & Friends' at FOX Studios on November 20, 2015 in New York City.

Tucker Carlson’s comments on immigration led to Pacific Life pulling ads from Fox. | Rob Kim/Getty Images

If you think about it, there are many reasons why companies would choose to stop advertising on Fox News. For starters, the network quickly became a state-media channel for the president and the GOP majority. When news of the Scott Pruitt interview scandal broke, that charge became impossible for Fox to deny. It’s quite an odd thing to see on American television.

Meanwhile, you’re going to hear lies casually broadcast on the network throughout the day. Whether you get fake news from Bret Baier or hear that marijuana is “killing people every day” on Fox & Friends, you could go hours without getting verifiable information.

But many corporations get past all that by considering the goods and services they could sell to Fox viewers. It takes something truly ugly for advertisers to draw a line in the sand and abandon Fox — even temporarily.

Laura Ingraham and Tucker Carlson both crossed that line in 2018. In both cases, the Fox News hosts said offensive things about immigrants. For Tucker, the wounds remain fresh.

Tucker: Immigration makes America “poorer” and “dirtier.”

On December 13, viewers of Tucker Carlson Tonight heard the show’s host deliver quite the monologue on immigration. As is often the case, Tucker’s rant started with a falsehood and veered into xenophobic and racist territory.

Our leaders demand that you shut up and accept this. We have a moral obligation to admit the world’s poor, they tell us, even if it makes our own country poorer, and dirtier, and more divided. Immigration is a form of atonement.

Tucker went on to say more uninformed, paranoid things about immigrants, but Pacific Life had already heard enough to stop advertising for the time being on Fox. After an inquiry from Jordan Uhl, the insurance company released a statement via Twitter.

Pacific Life’s national advertising campaign runs on numerous networks and cable stations and on a variety of news, business, and sports programs. One of our ads appeared on Tucker Carlson’s show last night following a segment where Mr. Carlson made a number of statements regarding immigration.

As a company, we strongly disagree with Mr. Carlson’s statements. Our customer base and our workforce reflect the diversity of our great nation, something we take great pride in. We will not be advertising on Mr. Carlson’s show in the coming weeks as we reevaluate our relationship with his program.

That response clearly rankled Fox executives, who complained about everything but Tucker’s comments. After blaming “left wing advocacy groups” out “to stifle free speech,” a spokesperson said the network would try to patch things up with Pacific Life after the “unfortunate and unnecessary distractions.”

[Update 12/18/18: Smile Direct Club, Indeed, Bowflex, and Minted also pulled their ads from Tucker’s show, making it a total of five companies.]

Once again, the network was playing defense after a host sent advertisers running. Earlier in the year, Ingraham was the one alienating brands in her 10 p.m slot.

Ingraham’s advertisers left, too. They never came back.

Laura Ingraham cost the Fox News network several advertisers earlier in 2018. | Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images

While Pacific Life and at least four other companies put Tucker in the penalty box for the coming weeks, we won’t know until late December whether his show will get them back. Right now, Fox News is probably hoping Tucker doesn’t become the next Laura Ingraham.

Her first round of advertising defections came after mocking David Hogg, a survivor from the Parkland high school massacre, for not getting into his college of choice. (Hogg advocated for it himself.) In June, Ingraham made light of child separations in ICE detention centers by saying they were “essentially like summer camps.” Hogg once again led a successful boycott of her show after the comments.

According to a Raw Story report, the boycotts dropped her show’s advertiser count from 229 brands in June to just 85 in October. But it wasn’t just the head count: Advertisers were also paying less to get on The Ingraham Angle. One ad executive told Raw Story that Fox was earning 15-30% less than it did previously for Ingraham’s show. These days, only “bottom feeders” were going her way, the exec said.

Not every advertiser worries about the kind of comments Tucker and Ingraham routinely make. For example, Farmer’s Insurance told The Hollywood Reporter it would continue with Fox and Tucker. After all, it advertised on programs that reflected “the diversity of opinions and viewpoints found across the nation,” the company said.

Mitsubishi is another company that decided to stay, saying its advertising choices have nothing to do with politics.

But for Pacific Life and many other brands, there’s no going back to Fox News prime-time slots. It just isn’t worth the bad press.

Check out The Cheat Sheet on Facebook!