After The New York Times revealed three previously unknown sexual-harassment cases settled by Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, companies have begun to pulling their ads from his highly rated primetime program.
According to the Times report, Fox News and O'Reilly cumulatively paid around $13 million in settlement money to five female colleagues who’ve accused him of inappropriate sexual behavior. Two of the cases, Andrea Mackris and Juliet Huddy, were previously known; but the Times unearthed three others from former Fox Business Network host Rebecca Diamond, former O’Reilly junior producer Rachel Witlieb Bernstein, and ex-anchor Laurie Dhue.
Additionally, a former frequent guest on O’Reilly’s show, Wendy Walsh, came forward in the exposé with her own accusations of the cable-news king making unwanted sexual advances and retaliating against her when she rebuffed him.
O’Reilly, of course, vehemently denied all the charges and suggested he’s been “targeted” solely because of his celebrity status.
In response to the mounting controversy, however, more than two dozen companies, including several major automakers, pharmaceutical companies, financial and insurance firms, and others have publicly stated that they have suspended advertising campaigns during The O’Reilly Factor, cable news’s highest-rated program and Fox’s primetime centerpiece for the past 20 years.
“The allegations are disturbing and, given the importance of women in every aspect of our business, we don’t feel this is a good environment in which to advertise our products right now,” Mercedes-Benz said in a Monday statement announcing it had “reassigned” its ads with the show.
BMW and Mitsubishi both said on Tuesday that they will suspend their ads with O’Reilly. Hyundai, too, released a statement saying it will pull its upcoming spots because of the “recent and disturbing allegations.” After initially telling media that it was assessing the situation, Lexus on Tuesday confirmed that “we have asked our media-buying partners to move all Lexus ad inventory out of the program.” Subaru joined its fellow automakers on Wednesday.
“We regularly evaluate our media buys to ensure alignment with our corporate values, and in light of the recent allegations we have decided to pull our upcoming ads from The O’Reilly Factor,” global financial firm T. Rowe Price said in a statement to The Daily Beast.
Ainsworth Pet Nurition, which owns the Rachel Ray-backed Nutrish dog-food brand, removed its ads because of the allegations; so did pharmaceutical giants GlaxoSmithKline, Bayer, and Sanofi. The Wonderful Company, Credit Karma, Orkin, Esurance, UNTUCKit, Coldwell Banker, the Society for Human Resource Management, TrueCar, Wayfair, Ancestry, LegalZoom, H&R Block, Invisalign, Vision Works, Pacific Life, Old Domnion Freight Line, Advil, Touchnote, Carfax, Reddi Wip, Progressive, and Stanley Steemer also publicly stated that they’ve discontinued their ads.
Email-marketing firm Constant Contact notably said that while it still has advertisements with The Factor slotted through Tuesday, it suspended them thereafter. "Based on the recent allegations and our strong commitment to inclusion, respect and tolerance in the workplace, we have decided to pull [our] ads from The O'Reilly Factor," a spokesperson said in a statement.
Liberty Mutual insurance told The Daily Beast that they do not normally advertise with the show, and that one of their ads inadvertently ran during Monday evening’s broadcast in certain markets. “We are addressing this with our media partners,” the company said.
Several major companies issued statements denouncing sexual harassment while refusing to comment on whether they’d pull their advertisements.
Jenny Craig, the famed weight-loss company, said it "condemns any and all forms of sexual harassment.” The company added in typical corporate-speak: “We are constantly evaluating our media buys to maximize the efficiency of our corporate investment and effectively reach our target audience.” (UPDATE: On Wednesday afternoon, the company reversed course and confirmed that it has, indeed, pulled all its ads from The O’Reilly Factor.)
Quincy Bioscience, which aired an ad during Monday’s night Factor for memory supplement Prevagen, said in a statement: “We don’t publically [sic] comment on our advertising. As a company we condemn all forms of sexual harassment.” Specialized garment company SCOTTeVEST, which also ran an ad Monday night, said: “We are in the process of getting more information before making any decisions. We are, however, optimistic that Fox will take the appropriate actions if these allegations are true.”
The crowdsourced business-reviewing website Angie’s List outright told The Daily Beast: “We do not have plans to change our ad buy.” The spokesperson continued in a statement: “We place ads across a wide spectrum of venues intending to reach as many viewers/listeners/readers as possible without taking a position on the viewpoints of the venues themselves. Just as we trust members to make their own hiring decisions, we trust them to make their own media consumption decisions.”
This isn’t the first time advertisers have backed out of a right-wing media broadcast en masse in response to misogyny.
In early 2012, Rush Limbaugh’s talk-radio show lost an estimated 45 sponsors after he called Georgetown law student Sandra Fluke a “prostitute” and a “slut” for her comments on mandating insurance coverage for contraceptives.
The boycott didn’t successfully bring down his show, however, as Clear Channel reaffirmed its support for its top radio host and ultimately renewed his contract just last year. Similarly, Bill O’Reilly signed a new deal with Fox News even while the cable giant knew of the ongoing Times investigation.
Monday evening’s broadcast of The O’Reilly Factor contained ads from several dozen other major companies, including Microsoft and John Deere.
The Daily Beast has reached out to those companies for comment, as well as 30+ others who advertised during the program.
UPDATE: In a statement, Fox News EVP of Advertising Sales Paul Rittenberg wrote, “We value our partners and are working with them to address their current concerns about the O’Reilly Factor. At this time, the ad buys of those clients have been re-expressed into other FNC programs.” And this article has been updated throughout as more companies join the boycott.