According to the activist group colorofchange.org more than 50,000 of its members led a successful campaign last week to pressure several companies to pull their advertisements off the air during the Glenn Beck show on Fox News Channel.
During an August 4 appearance on “Fox & Friends,” Beck called President Barack Obama a “racist” with “a deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture.”
Beck made his remarks during a discussion after the recent arrest of Henry Louis Gates Jr., an African American Harvard professor. Beck was referring to Obama’s public reaction to the situation, which gained national headlines and mixed reactions by the media.
According to the Jack & Jill Politics website, Lawyers.com, Proctor & Gamble, and Progressive Insurance said they plan to distance themselves from Beck. LexisNexis, owner of Lawyers.com pulled its advertising and said it has no plans of returning. Proctor & Gamble and Progressive Insurance said its advertising during the Beck show was an error that would be corrected immediately. S.C. Johnson also said their ads during the show were also a mistake. They also plan to discontinue ads during Beck’s show in the future.
Others are hopeful that the sponsor pullout from the Beck show will make a positive difference in countering hate language, slanders, smears, and outrageous comments by figures on television and radio including Rush Limbaugh and Lou Dobbs. Limbaugh has likened President Obama to Nazis causing the White House to declare he was on ‘thin ice.’ Dobbs is actively promoting the idea the president was not born in the U.S.
“Beck is only one of several out-of-control hosts who traffick in such innuendo,” writes Baltimore Sun critic David Zurawik. He said it would be preferable if the major media corporations that own the channels had their own standards of “responsible speech” or adheres to critics who demand such responsibility after they shame prime-time hosts.
“But that clearly is not happening,” writes Zurawik. Calling the level of prime-time discourse “absolutely toxic” Zurawik adds that maybe during these harsh economic times the loss of advertisers could make a difference. “Something has to,” he says.
“We look back in horror today at the political discourse of the 1950’s when careers were ruined, lives were shattered and suicides committed because of the reckless words and groundless accusations hurled by the likes of Wisconsin Senator Joe McCarthy and some of his acolytes both in politics and the Hearst press,” writes Zurawik.
Zurawik said as part of his Ph.D. dissertation he immersed himself in 1950’s TV and media. “And I can tell you that some of the prime-time cable TV hosts are playing the very same dark and dangerous chords as McCarthy’s lot,” he says. “Only today, thanks to cable TV and the Web, they have bigger amplifiers and the ability to spread their poisonous messages instantly with virtually no gatekeepers to get in the way.”
Although advertisers have not abandoned the Fox News channel altogether and only plan to remove their ads during Beck’s show, many argue it’s a start.
James Rucker writing on the Jack & Jill Politics website, said, “This is great progress, and it shows how effective it can be when thousands of people tell advertisers not to support this kind of hateful rhetoric.” Now the pressure needs to be stepped up on Beck’s other advertisers, especially those who have avoided our calls, he said. “The more people they see joining this campaign, the more reason they’ll have to listen.”
Rucker said the decision by the three advertisers to distance themselves from the Beck show would help increase the pressure on others. “The writing is on the wall – Beck should not have the backing of mainstream advertisers,” said Rucker. “If we keep the pressure on, we believe we can seriously threaten his platform.”