Fox News, its corporate parent, and advertisers are remaining silent in the wake of Tucker Carlson claiming on-air that white supremacy is a “hoax.”
The Fox News primetime host sparked intense backlash and outrage Tuesday evening when he dismissed concerns about white supremacy just 72 hours after a Texas man allegedly killed 22 people in El Paso after apparently posting a racist manifesto decrying a “Hispanic invasion.”
The Daily Beast reached out to each of the companies that advertised on Tucker Carlson Tonight since Monday, including all-inclusive resort chain Sandals, asking if they had a response to criticism of companies who continue to buy airtime on Carlson’s show in light of his remarks. The only company that provided a response as of Thursday afternoon was PC Matic, which attempted to go off the record to say it had “no comment.” (The Daily Beast did not previously agree to an off-the-record conversation.)
Both the network and the board of its parent company, Fox Corporation, have also stayed mum in the wake of Carlson’s comments. A corporate spokesperson did not immediately respond when asked whether the board believes it was an appropriate message for Carlson to share in the wake of a mass shooting that was likely inspired by racist beliefs. Fox News also did not return a request for comment.
CNN media reporter Oliver Darcy reported Wednesday night that Fox’s board members, which include former House speaker Paul Ryan, did not respond to his individual requests for comment, noting that one board member—former CEO of Telemundo Roland Hernandez—abruptly hung up on him when asked about Carlson.
Dismissing criticism of President Trump in the wake of the El Paso mass shooting, Carlson specifically took aim at those who believe the president’s anti-immigrant rhetoric helped embolden the suspected shooter, saying it is “just a lie” to claim Trump ever “endorsed white supremacy or came close to endorsing white supremacy.”
From there, the conservative Fox News star shrugged off any concerns that white supremacy is an issue in the U.S., asserting the “whole thing is a lie.”
“If you were to assemble a list, a hierarchy of concerns, problems this country has, where would white supremacy be on the list?” Carlson asked his viewers. “Right up there with Russia, probably. It’s actually not a real problem in America.”
Despite the FBI saying the majority of recent domestic terrorism cases it has investigated are tied to white-supremacist violence, Carlson went on to call the idea of white supremacy being a problem a “hoax.”
“Just like the Russia hoax, it’s a conspiracy theory used to divide the country and keep a hold on power,” he added.
Later on in the program, Carlson contended that he’s “never met anybody—not one person—who ascribes to white supremacy.” The conservative news site that Carlson co-founded, however, has infamously published several writers with white-nationalist ties.
On Wednesday, Carlson addressed the controversy over his comments by telling critics to “calm down,” mildly acknowledging that racism is indeed a problem but that the country faces other issues, such as the national debt and “fading middle class.” He also insisted that America is not a racist country and that it is full of people who “make bad decisions from time to time” and who should be given “the benefit of the doubt.”
At the end of his Wednesday night broadcast, meanwhile, Carlson announced that he was going on vacation and wouldn’t be back until Aug. 19. Fox News immediately noted that the host’s break was in the works before the outrage over his “hoax” comments. At the same time, there is a long history of Fox News personalities suddenly vacationing when controversy breaks out, the most famous example being Bill O’Reilly, who never returned following multiple accusations of sexual harassment.
Fueled by his aggressively anti-immigrant on-air commentary, Carlson has seen a huge reduction in advertisers since late last year, in particular after the Fox News host said immigration makes America “poorer and dirtier.”
After Carlson made those remarks in December 2018, and following an online campaign by progressive organizations and activists, dozens of sponsors immediately distanced themselves from his highly rated primetime show.
Months later, calls for advertisers to drop Carlson were renewed after left wing media watchdog group Media Matters published audio clips of the Fox host making vulgar, misogynistic, and racist remarks during appearances on shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge’s radio show.
While several companies subsequently announced they would no longer advertise on Tucker Carlson Tonight, Fox News reiterated its support for Carlson: “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.”
Carlson isn’t the only Fox News personality who has been the target of advertiser boycotts due to inflammatory rhetoric. Pro-Trump weekend host Jeanine Pirro saw a significant drop in advertising load after the network suspended her for two weeks for saying Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) is not sufficiently American because she wears a hijab.
Primetime host Laura Ingraham, meanwhile, has been the target of a sustained ad backlash since March 2018, when she publicly mocked Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg for not being accepted into several colleges. More than a year after a number of sponsors fled from her show, The Ingraham Angle’s advertiser time is still way down. Earlier this year, Ingraham lost more advertisers after she boosted a notorious anti-Semite and white supremacist as a “prominent voice” on the right who’d been “censored by social media.”
UPDATE, 8/8/19, 8:28 P.M.: While recent advertisers on the show remain silent, fish-focused fast food chain Long John Silver’s confirmed Thursday that it declined to renew its contract with Fox back in April. Additionally, Nestlé, which, according to The Hollywood Reporter, “has advertised the Proactiv skin-care product on Carlson’s show in the last three months,” confirmed that it has no plans to purchase more ads in the future.
—Asawin Suebsaeng contributed reporting.