He hosts one of cable TV’s highest-rated programs, but at least seven major advertisers have dropped Tucker Carlson Tonight following his racist screed against Black Lives Matter and marches protesting police brutality toward blacks.
T-Mobile, Disney, and even Papa John’s Pizza are among the marketers who decided that reaching Carlson’s far-right followers isn’t worth tarnishing its brand. SmileDirectClub, Vari, Jackson Hewitt Tax Service, and Poshmark have also severed their association with the middle-age frat boy.
On June 8, Carlson attacked the worldwide protests sparked by the killing of George Floyd. In an apparent attempt to stir fear instead of marchers demanding an end to the systemic racism in law enforcement, Carlson cautioned against “left-wing mobs” out to “cancel your rights.”
“This may be a lot of things, this moment we’re living through, but it is definitely not about black lives,” he told his audience. “Remember that when they come for you, and at this rate, they will.”
Two days earlier, Carlson had called out celebrities who donated to nonprofits supporting police reform and raising bail money for protestors.
Carlson read the names of Seth Rogen, Janelle Monáe, Steve Carell, Don Cheadle, Colin Kaepernick, Harry Styles, Cynthia Nixon, and others over images of violent riots.
“I think when white supremacists are bothered by your actions, that’s probably a good thing,” tweeted Rogen in response.
Following his June 8 statements about the protests, Carlson was hit with charges of racism, and not for the first time.
In 2018, Carlson’s show lost advertisers after he claimed immigrants made the United States “poorer and dirtier.”
The next year, he drew fire for characterizing white supremacy as a “hoax” after authorities linked the mass slaying of 22 people at an El Paso Walmart to a white supremacist who feared a “Hispanic invasion.”
In the wake of that incident, the hashtag #FireTuckerCarlson trended for a while and Carlson went on vacation.
The latest incident, however, hits Fox News where its heart is — money — and at a time when the network is particularly vulnerable. Advertisers were already disengaging with Fox News for its denial of the COVID-19 pandemic, which in turn is causing companies to trim their marketing budgets.
A recent ad industry study predicted that COVID-19 will take 33 percent from advance commercial commitments “as advertisers … shift to short-term buying.”
“Of the more than 150 advertisers surveyed in early May, half say they feel they can replace the reach of linear TV with ads within streaming services and digital video ads,” wrote CNBC.
But Carlson can still count on one high-profile advertiser: MyPillow. Company CEO Mike Lindell is Minnesota chairman for Donald Trump’s 2020 reelection campaign, and he’s a backer of the “All Lives Matter” movement — a racist counter to Black Lives Matter.
MyPillow had 45 airings on Carlson’s show between May 27 and June 9, according to iSpot.tv.
In addition to sticking with Carlson for now, Lindell is said to be considering a run for governor of Minnesota. If he does, Carlson also can count on him for campaign ads in the Minnesota market.
But for now, the biggest star of one of the world's most successful media businesses might consider recalibrating his approach to a nascent cultural shift.