Protesters showed up at Fox News’ front door on Wednesday morning as the network attempted to court advertisers in a closed-door meeting, amid increasing fury over comments from several of Fox’s top stars.
On Sunday, Media Matters published audio of primetime Fox host Tucker Carlson defending statutory rape and making vulgar, misogynistic, and racist remarks. (The comments were made between 2006 and 2011, a period in which Carlson was employed at different times by CNN, MSNBC, and then Fox). After Fox News stood by Carlson this week, refusing to punish him in any way, the liberal group that monitors Fox News then organized a protest to coincide with the network’s planned breakfast event hosting potential ad buyers.
But Wednesday’s demonstration was about more than Carlson’s offensive remarks—it was aimed at Fox News as a company for continuing to employ right-wing stars like Carlson, Hannity, and Ingraham; and at advertisers for considering purchasing airtime with the network.
“This is about the fact that all of the lies that they tell throughout their daily broadcast have created an environment that is dangerous for humanity,” said The Daily Show co-creator Lizz Winstead, who once frequently appeared as a commentator on MSNBC, during her brief address to demonstrators outside News Corp HQ on Sixth Avenue.
“We are here to say to advertisers: Drop Fox, be Americans, support actual real news because what you are supporting now is hurting people and is dangerous.”
At least 50 protesters showed up to the demonstration.
Demonstrators shouted rallying cries criticizing Fox News, calling for Tucker Carlson Tonight’s cancellation, and boycotting the brands that still advertise with the network. Many held signs with slogans like “Don’t Be a Sucker for Tucker,” “No Ads, No Facts, No Fox,” several punctuated with the hashtag “#DropFox.”
Some posters directly pleaded with Pfizer, the makers of Advil, to not purchase ads with the network, scrawling phrases like “Sean Hannity Gives Me a Headache” alongside images of the ibuprofen bottle.
While Fox News has said the advertiser boycott has not affected the network’s bottom line—like most cable news channels, Fox News makes money from affiliate fees from providers—it clearly has gone out of its way to assuage the network’s advertisers.
Fox News seems unwilling to budge on its stars, despite the dwindling high-quality advertisements during its primetime programming. After all, even amid the controversy, Carlson’s show was the most-watched program on all cable news Tuesday evening.
Carlson has struggled to attract blue-chip advertisers since December, when at least 30 major companies dropped his show after he said immigration makes America “poorer and dirtier.” Since then, Tucker Carlson Tonight has notably reduced from the usual five ad breaks to four and has leaned on direct-response ads, Fox News promos, and lengthy commercials from ideologically sympathetic advertisers like pro-Trump company MyPillow. During Monday night’s broadcast, Carlson’s first show since Media Matters released the damning audio, only 13:28 worth of commercials aired—more than half of which were MyPillow ads and station promos.
In a statement on Wednesday, Fox News’ president of ad sales said 100 advertisers attended the network’s upfront presentation.
“We were extremely proud to open our doors and introduce the media buying community to our America’s Watching campaign, incredible team of talent and new state of the art studios,” Marianne Gambelli said in a statement.
But the network has long been averse to caving to pressure from Media Matters, a group that is openly despised by Fox News brass and often denounced in network statements as a “far-left” organization hellbent on destroying the network. On the same day of the protest, several news outlets resurfaced Media Matters president’s own gross past comments, which have been written about occasionally in the past.
And many of the network’s staffers are less concerned about Carlson’s comments than those from another inflammatory Fox News personality.
Several staffers who spoke to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity said that employees generally seemed more upset about Judge Jeanine Pirro’s recent comments suggesting that because Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) wears a hijab, she does not adhere to the U.S. Constitution.
Fox News publicly rebuked those comments, though Pirro has yet to apologize. The openly Islamophobic comments stirred so much internal fury that two production staffers took to Twitter to publicly criticize Pirro—an unusual, controversial move for off-air employees.
For some Fox News staffers, it was yet another week in which the network’s more traditional news broadcasts were completely overshadowed by its opinion wing.
“It’s clear that this company is still willing to stand by their opinion programming at all costs, even at the expense of the entire news division,” one staffer lamented.