NEW YORK — While Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity called on his supporters to stop smashing Keurig coffee makers to protest a decision to stop advertising on his show, it remains unclear whether Keurig will actually return as a sponsor.
Hannity and a liberal lobbying group's effort to choke off his advertising are clearly making some corporations uncomfortable and loathe to be involved in a proxy political battle.
After Keurig announced via Twitter that it would abandon Hannity's show because of how he reported on stories about Alabama U.S. Senate candidate Roy Moore, some of the Fox host's supporters began posting videos online smashing, blowing up or tossing coffee makers off a deck. Hannity called the action "hysterical" and showed some of the videos on his show.
Then he read from a letter that Bob Gamgort, Keurig's chief executive officer, wrote to his employees saying it was wrong to talk about advertising strategies publicly "outside of company protocols."
"I believe the CEO. I believe his sincerity here," Hannity, who claimed to own five Keurig machines, said on his show Monday. He called for a "cease-fire" and urged supporters not to smash their Keurigs.
But Gamgort's letter never explicitly says what its advertising plans will be. "In most situations such as this one, we would 'pause' our advertising on that particular program and reevaluate our go-forward strategy at a later date," he wrote.
Keurig representatives did not return repeated messages on Tuesday and Wednesday asking whether it would resume advertising on Hannity's show. The last Keurig ad on his show aired Nov. 2, while Green Mountain coffee, made by the same company, advertised last Thursday, according to Media Matters for America, the group that has been advocating an advertiser boycott of Hannity.
Similarly, Volvo announced via Twitter on Monday that it had advised its media agency to cease advertising on Hannity's show. But the tweet appeared to have been quickly deleted, and the company's representatives also did not return messages seeking clarification on what its stance will be moving forward.
Realtor.com tweeted on Saturday that it does not run ads on "Hannity" and would not in the future. The tweet was later deleted and Realtor.com later said it would advertise "across a broad range of networks, including Fox News and its top shows."
Other companies appear reluctant to be seen publicly as supporting a boycott, and similarly reluctant to be seen supporting Hannity. Nature's Bounty and Hello Fresh both said they have not advertised on the show since the summer but have not discussed their reasons.
Fox News had no comment on the advertisers.
Media Matters has successfully promoted advertiser boycotts on past Fox personalities Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly. Hannity and his supporters have actively fought back, and companies have been caught in the crossfire. Hit hard by a backlash when it announced a Hannity boycott in the spring, the financial services firm USAA initially said it would avoid all opinion-based programming, then reversed field and said it would return to Hannity's show.
Angelo Carusone, Media Matters president, said he was initially disheartened this past weekend when the Keurig-smashing videos appeared, believing it would make other companies reluctant to risk the wrath of Hannity's supporters. But he found this wasn't so. Carusone said there are a dozen companies that advertised on Hannity in the past that have said they will no longer do so, and still others that are avoiding the show but just not being public about their intentions.
He said he doesn't believe Keurig will return as an advertiser because returning would subject them to a backlash among Hannity's opponents. He said USAA was the only company he knew that said it would avoid Hannity's show and publicly changed its mind.
"What companies say about it obviously makes a difference from a public perception perspective," he said. "But if the ads are not running because companies have put (the show) on a 'do not run' list, that's really the action that makes the difference here. Because that's the one that affects the advertising rates for Sean Hannity and his commercial viability."
Hannity has said he believes Media Matters is trying to muzzle free speech.
David Bauder, The Associated Press