More than 60 advertisers have agreed not to advertise on Fox News Channel’s “The Glenn Beck Program” after its host called President Obama a "racist" with "a deep-seated hatred for white people” during a July 28 appearance on the program Fox & Friends.
Beck stands by his comments about President Obama and, as the boycott gathered steam, launched a smear campaign against Van Jones, the White House special adviser for green jobs and a co-founder of ColorOfChange, the organization that started the boycott. Jones resigned after conservative pundits and Republican officials began echoing Beck's criticism.
ColorOfChange, an online organization with the stated mission of increasing Black America’s political voice, launched the boycott shortly after Beck's July comment. “What Beck is doing is race-baiting at its worst, it's dangerous and it's hard to imagine any company wanting their brand associated with it,” says James Rucker, the organization's co-founder and executive director.
More than 175,000 people signed a petition that urged the program's sponsors to immediately stop advertising on a show whose rhetoric “is racially divisive and pollutes our public discourse.”
Dozens of major corporations, including Applebee’s, Bank of America, Bell & Howell, DirecTV, AT&T, Campbell Soup Company, Lowe’s, General Mills, Kraft, Sprint, RadioShack, State Farm Insurance, Procter & Gamble, Regions Financial Corporation, and Wal-Mart, withdrew their ads.
“Every national company with a name you'd recognize is gone,” Rucker says. “What’s left are mostly far-right groups and direct marketing companies selling things like gold coins and discounted exercise equipment.”
Several companies—including Travelers Insurance, Bell & Howell, and DirectTV—claim they already placed Glenn Beck’s program on a “do not air” list and that any recent ads on Beck’s program ran there against their wishes.
"We support vigorous debate, especially around policy issues that affect millions of Americans, but we expect it to be informed, inclusive, and respectful," said Carolyn Castel, a spokeswoman for CVS Caremark, one of the companies that requested their ads not appear during Beck’s show.
After Beck turned his attention to Van Jones, ColorOfChange faced criticism that the White House or Jones were involved in the campaign.
“It’s an absurd accusation. Van hasn’t worked with ColorOfChange in years, and when we decided to launch the campaign we didn't even know that Beck had attacked Van,” Rucker says. “Van is a passionate thinker and leader, and we are grateful to him for co-founding ColorOfChange. But this campaign is not about Van. It’s about stopping Glenn Beck, who has promised to take his witch-hunt to others in the administration.”
In August, ColorOfChange.org began asking supporters who had signed their initial petition to call five major advertisers that still hadn’t pulled their ads. Hours after members began making calls, one of the companies pledged not to run ads. Within the week, four of the advertisers had agreed not to advertise during Beck’s program.
As ColorOfChange stepped up the campaign, Beck began losing advertisers and “went into full-scale attack mode on Van—exaggerating or distorting his record on 23 shows and devoting an entire segment to discrediting him,” says Rucker.
“Beck presented his attacks on Van as honest journalistic inquiry, while dishonestly failing to mention that Van co-founded the group leading a successful advertiser boycott against him,” Rucker says.
Rucker says Beck’s method is especially harmful now, as the country faces crises in its economy, health care system, and climate. ColorOfChange’s campaign raises the question: Is the best way to tackle these problems through divisive political attacks or thoughtful, rational dialogue? As the boycott’s success illustrates, even Beck’s own advertisers support the latter.