Fox News Assures Advertisers That Maria Bartiromo, a Rabid Trumpkin, Is ‘Hard-Hitting Journalism’
In a pitch presentation obtained by The Daily Beast, the cable news giant assures potential sponsors that any “negative chatter” associated with buying ads on Fox News fades fast.
Fox News has a message to potential advertisers: Relax, the “negative chatter” associated with sponsoring our toxic brand fades fast. So please buy ads.
In a presentation document obtained and reviewed by The Daily Beast, the network pitched its ad space to potential sponsors by laying out internal data suggesting the negative coverage of Fox’s inflammatory, right-wing commentary does not actually harm its advertisers. Additionally, the network touted the “hard-hitting journalism” of stars like Maria Bartiromo, a staunchly pro-Trump host who has long boosted baseless right-wing conspiracy theories.
Over the past several years, the conservative cable news giant has faced a barrage of calls for advertiser boycotts from celebrities, politicians, and liberal activists over a variety of bigoted comments and dangerous conspiracy theories peddled by top on-air personalities like Tucker Carlson, Sean Hannity, and Laura Ingraham. In some cases, like during Carlson’s primetime hour, the boycotts have been so persistent that only a handful of advertisers—including a pro-Trump pillow company—remain.
But behind the scenes, Fox has told potential advertisers not to be concerned.
Companies have been “only temporarily impacted by advertiser boycotts,” the network wrote, alongside a graph showing a brief spike in brand mentions for five of its advertisers in March 2019, when old tapes surfaced of Carlson making racist and misogynistic comments on shock jock Bubba the Love Sponge’s radio show.
Three of the advertisers mentioned—Outback Steakhouse, Capital One, and AstraZeneca—all ditched the network as a result. Nevertheless, “conversation volume declined quickly to normal levels regardless of response,” the network assured potential ad-buyers.
The network additionally attempted to reassure buyers by claiming that the “negative chatter” about Fox News advertisers is not nearly as bad as the “real brand damage” that Boeing received after 346 people died in two crashes involving its new 737 MAX jetliner; that United Airlines incurred when airport security dragged a bloodied and unconscious doctor off its plane after he refused to give up his seat; or that pizza chain Papa John’s received after its founder and former CEO John Schnatter used a racial slur during a company conference call.
And after all, the network dismissively claimed to potential sponsors, “87% of all direct advertiser targeting was from shares and comments on tweets from only three different anti-Fox News activists,” singling out liberal writer Judd Legum, social-media activist group Sleeping Giants, and anonymous resistance Twitter account @DesignationSix.
Per a source familiar with the presentation, the mid-year pitch deck has been circulated to potential advertisers in recent months.
Elsewhere in the presentation, Fox News highlighted its diverse roster of programming, particularly touting the “hard-hitting journalism” of Bartiromo alongside anchors like Chris Wallace, Bret Baier, Dana Perino, and Martha MacCallum. “Breaking Through With Quality Journalism,” the presentation blared on another page featuring Bartiromo’s portrait.
The network selling Bartiromo as a face of its journalism is especially eyebrow-raising considering the famed financial reporter’s years-long descent into full-on Trump boosterism.
The Fox host has been a vocal election denialist, leading the charge of the network’s right-wing, pro-Trump voices peddling lies that the election was “stolen” from the president via widespread voter fraud. Besides providing a regular platform to Trump lawyer Rudy Giuliani and on-again-off-again Trump legal adviser Sidney Powell to uncritically amplify their unfounded claims, Bartiromo also repeatedly dipped her toes in those same conspiratorial waters.
While she has continued to book high-profile guests from her vast rolodex of financial industry names, her credulous parroting of some of the more unhinged “rigged” election theories from Trumpworld, namely that corrupt voting software flipped millions of Trump votes to President-elect Joe Biden, eventually resulted in legal threats to the network.
Fox News responded to legal threats from voting-machine provider Smartmatic by filming a segment in which an election systems expert debunked the lies about the company. Bartiromo aired the segment on her Sunday morning show, followed by her own brief commentary: “So that is where we stand right now. We will keep investigating.”
Despite the network’s repeated controversies and subsequent pressure on its advertisers, the limited amount of public data shows Fox News has continued to haul in ad cash. According to a survey released by Pew last year, Fox News posted huge second-quarter revenue gains, which the network partially attributed to its advertising spending.