Fox News on Friday afternoon issued a statement defending primetime star Laura Ingraham after she championed notorious white supremacist Paul Nehlen as a “prominent voice” on the right who had been “censored by social media,” omitting his virulent anti-Semitism and racism.
At the same time, one of the companies that advertises during Ingraham’s broadcast has pulled its ads.
“It is obscene to suggest that Laura Ingraham was defending Paul Nehlen’s despicable actions especially when some of the names on the graphic were pulled from an Associated Press report on best known political extremists banned from Facebook,” the network said in a statement to The Daily Beast. “Anyone who watches Laura’s show knows that she is a fierce protector of freedom of speech and the intent of the segment was to highlight the growing trend of unilateral censorship in America.”
During a discussion with far-right commentator Candace Owens—who once suggested Hitler’s nationalism would have been ‘OK’ if he didn’t go global—the Fox News primetime star complained that the left is trying to “silence conservative voices ahead of the 2020 election,” pointing to criticism of doctored videos of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi appearing drunk. This prompted Ingraham to air a graphic showing numerous right-wing figures who have been recently suspended or banned from social-media platforms.
The image, featuring Nehlen—along with other fringe extremists such as Milo Yiannopoulos, Laura Loomer, and Alex Jones—led Ingraham to observe that the banned individuals are simply “the people who believe in border enforcement, people who believe in national sovereignty.”
Nehlen, however, is not just a conservative who merely believes in border security and nationalism. The former Republican congressional candidate, who challenged Paul Ryan in 2016 (and received support from Steve Bannon), has trafficked in overt anti-Semitism and racism for years, going so far as calling for a race war and pondering the “Jewish Question,” a common paranoid refrain of neo-Nazis who believe Jews control society.
Prior to being permanently suspended from Twitter in early 2018 for posting a racist photoshopped image of Meghan Markle as a dark-skinned early Briton, Nehlen posted an anti-Semitic list of dozens of verified Twitter users he claimed were attacking his “#AmericaFirst” position because they were Jewish. He also posted images of journalists and editors alongside Jewish stars.
Nehlen, who has appeared on former KKK leader David Duke’s radio program and other white-nationalist broadcasts, was kicked off Twitter and even the alt-right alternative Gab (where he infamously posted photoshopped images of Jews’ heads on pikes). Prior to being banned from Facebook earlier this month over his “dangerous” rhetoric, Nehlen used his page to post anti-Semitic memes and screenshots from white-supremacist website The Daily Stormer.
While Fox News remained silent during the early part of the day on Friday, Ingraham did reference the controversy in a tweet. Following widespread criticism over her elevation of Nehlen on her highly rated program, the Fox opinion host condemned her critics for the crime of tweeting out screenshots highlighting Nehlen’s racism and anti-Semitism.
“Retweeting screenshots of despicable old tweets by racists and/or anti-semites must make those racists & anti-semites very happy,” she tweeted. “Unfortunately it does zero to elevate the debate in America. cc. @CNN.”
The reference to a rival cable channel appears to be a shot at CNN anchor Jake Tapper, who tweeted an image of Nehlen’s anti-Markle tweet while tagging Fox News. “Just a reminder that Paul Nehlen is a racist and if you’re defending him that’s what you’re defending. Cc @FoxNews,” he wrote on Friday morning.
Ingraham, meanwhile, has come under heavy scrutiny over her own remarks and the content of her program, resulting in a year-long advertiser boycott. The ad removals began in earnest last April after Ingraham publicly mocked Parkland shooting survivor David Hogg when his applications were rejected by several colleges, causing more than a dozen companies to drop her show. Ingraham has recently further inflamed controversy, claiming the “America that we know and love doesn’t exist anymore” because of “massive demographic changes.” A year after the Hogg ordeal, The Ingraham Angle still hasn’t regained the advertiser load it lost.
The few companies that do advertise during Ingraham’s primetime hour have largely remained silent in the wake of her Nehlen comments.
In a statement posted to its website, photo-finishing company Fracture said it will pull its advertisements from Ingraham’s hour. “Last night one of our ads aired during an episode of The Ingraham Angle, in which she expressed alarming views that run entirely counter to the values that we hold as a company,” wrote Fracture CEO Abhi Lokesh.
“Effective immediately, we are no longer advertising on The Ingraham Angle. We will also be taking this opportunity to thoughtfully update our media buying guidelines to ensure that our ad dollars are being spent in ways that align with our values,” the company added. “We believe in freedom of speech, but we certainly don’t have to support hate speech with our advertising dollars.”
Meanwhile, StarKist, a tuna brand, issued a non-committal statement about its advertising choices. “We do not endorse individual opinions,” the company told The Daily Beast. “Our television ads appear on a number of cable networks as part of our national media buy.”
Other companies that advertised during Ingraham’s Thursday evening broadcast include Bayer, Sandals Resorts, Bausch + Lomb, Booking.com, NetSuite, and car insurance provide The Zebra. None of those companies responded to requests for comment from The Daily Beast on whether they intend to continue advertising during her show.
This article has been updated to reflect new statements from advertisers.