A number of advertisers are distancing themselves from the Fox News Channel shows featuring Tucker Carlson and Jeanine Pirro after the two high-profile hosts were accused of making bigoted statements.
Carlson is under fire for misogynistic, homophobic and racist comments unearthed from past radio appearances. Pirro came under scrutiny for comments she made about Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), who is Muslim. Both have pushed back against the criticism, but multiple companies have reportedly pulled their support this week. Targeting advertisers with boycott campaigns is a frequent tactic of the networks’ critics.
Beginning Sunday, Media Matters for America, a watchdog group that monitors conservative media outlets, released several audio clips of Carlson’s appearances on the “Bubba the Love Sponge Show,” a Tampa-based radio show, from 2006 to 2011.
In one set of recordings, Carlson made controversial statements about child rape and comments that some have called misogynistic.
“If you’re talking to a feminist and she’s giving you, ‘Well, you know men really need to be more sensitive,’ no actually, men don’t need to be more sensitive. You just need to be quiet and do what you’re told,” he is heard saying in one recording.
In another segment, Carlson is heard calling Iraq a “crappy place filled with a bunch of, you know, semiliterate primitive monkeys” and jokingly using a homophobic slur.
After the recordings were published, some companies decided to pull their advertisements from Carlson’s show.
Debby Jennings, a spokeswoman for SHEEX, sent the Post a company statement on Tuesday that said, “due to the inappropriate statements of Tucker Carlson that have recently come to light, SHEEX has made the decision to cease advertising on his television program, ‘Tucker Carlson Tonight.’”
Pharmaceutical company Astra Zeneca tweeted Monday that it had ceased advertising on Carlson’s show and would not resume in the future.
In a statement to The Washington Post this week, Carlson was defiant. “Media Matters caught me saying something naughty on a radio show more than a decade ago,” he said. “Rather than express the usual ritual contrition, how about this: I’m on television every weeknight live for an hour. If you want to know what I think, you can watch. Anyone who disagrees with my views is welcome to come on and explain why.”
Fox News Channel spokeswoman Carly Shanahan responded to a request for comment by resending a December statement on boycott efforts against Carlson’s show.
"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 December statement said.
Pirro also faced wide condemnation — including a rebuke from Fox News Channel — for suggesting on her Saturday show that Omar, who has criticized pro-Israel lobbyists, did not support the Constitution because she was Muslim and wore a hijab.
“Omar wears a hijab, which, according to the Koran 33:59, tells women to cover so they won’t get molested,” Pirro said Saturday. “Is her adherence to this Islamic doctrine indicative of her adherence to sharia law, which in itself is antithetical to the United States Constitution?”
Novo Nordisk, another pharmaceutical company, told The Post it was “reevaluating” its ads on Pirro’s show, though the company will continue to advertise elsewhere on Fox News, spokesman Ken Inchausti confirmed.
Companies reportedly taking steps to cease advertisements on Pirro’s shows going forward include NerdWallet, Botox manufacturer Allergan, GreatCall, a health technology company, and Letgo, a website for buying and selling used goods.
“We absolutely condemn Ms. Pirro’s comments, which are offensive and completely contrary to our values,” a spokesperson for Letgo told the Hollywood Reporter.
Pirro has denied saying Omar was “un-American.”
“My intention was to ask a question and start a debate," she said. "But of course because one is Muslim does not mean you don’t support the Constitution.”
Fox News Channel’s hosts have previously faced companies pulling advertisements from their shows over controversial comments.
Companies withdrew their ads from Laura Ingraham’s show last year after she mocked one of the young Parkland gun control advocates for being rejected from colleges. In December, more than a dozen companies pulled ads from “Tucker Carlson Tonight" after Carlson implied immigration “makes our own country poorer and dirtier and more divided.”
But as The Post’s media reporter Paul Farhi noted in December after Carlson’s immigration comments, these advertiser decisions don’t tend to affect the company’s bottom line and the commercials can be aired at other times.
However, that did not stop activists from trying the tactic again on Wednesday.
A small crowd of about 150 turned out on Wednesday morning at Fox headquarters in Midtown Manhattan to pressure the network’s advertisers. The gathering, which was organized by Media Matters, was designed to coincide with the network’s first-ever upfront presentation, which featured over 100 advertisers. The network was “extremely proud to open our doors,” Fox News Channel’s Marianne Gambelli said in a statement.
Some members of the crowd carried signs with slogans like “Fox News is Bad for Business,” before dispersing at about noon.
Shivani Vora contributed to this report from New York.
An earlier version of this story suggested that a Sheex spokeswoman was interviewed by phone. She sent a statement.