CNN’s Stelter on Ingraham: ‘Dangerous’ to See Ad Boycotts Happening More Often

‘My view is let’s not shut down anyone’s right to speak’

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STELTER: Hey, welcome back to RELIABLE SOURCES. I’m Brian Stelter. 

Once again, a Fox News host is taking a vacation, this time after a tweet gone bad. Laura Ingraham picked on Parkland-shooting-survivor- turned-activist David Hogg, mocking him for getting rejected by several colleges. Hogg targeted her on Twitter and targeted her advertisers. 

She apologized, but he didn’t accept the apology and kept up the pressure. Now, we’ve seen more advertisers avoiding her show. 

What’s interesting is that on Friday night, Ingraham said, hey, I’m going on vacation. 


LAURA INGRAHAM, FOX NEWS HOST: I’ll be off next week for Easter break with my kids, but fear not, we’ve got a great lineup of guest hosts to fill in for me. 


STELTER: And Fox is backing her up, confirming this was a preplanned spring break vacation. 

But it’s notable because this time last year when Bill O’Reilly was in trouble, he went on vacation, too, and never came back. Now, here’s an incomplete list of the advertisers that have cut ties with Ingraham’s show. 

Notably, it’s continued even after the vacation was announced. On Saturday, we heard from the company Bayer, announcing, quote, we have stopped advertising on Laura Ingraham’s show. We have no plans to resume any time in the future. 

This is clearly a headache for Fox and Ingraham. 

So, joining me now, David Zurawik, media critic for “The Baltimore Sun”. And Anthony Atamanuik, he’s the star of Comedy Central’s “The President’s Show.” He has a special coming up this week. 

David Zurawik, are ad boycotts the right answer here? I’m personally pretty weary of this. I think it’s dangerous to see these ad boycott attempts happening more and more often in this country. 

My view is let’s not shut down anyone’s right to speak. Let’s meet their comments with more speech. Let’s try to respond that way. 

What’s your view of these ad boycotts? 

DAVID ZURAWIK, MEDIA CRITIC, THE BALTIMORE SUN: Well, Brian, I agree with let’s meet their speech with more speech. But in the world of commercial media, nothing is more powerful than an advertiser boycott. The first commandment is thou shalt not lose your advertisers. 

So, if you feel you’re a high school student and somebody of her stature is taunting you on Twitter — look, there’s two things about these students at Parkland that just fascinate me. 

[11:20:03] One, they have a great moral authority that most people in the media don’t have. And they have it because of what they went through, seeing classmates killed and then having to mourn and bury their classmates and go on with their life. That’s a great moral authority. 

They’re also, especially David Hogg and some of the others, incredibly media savvy in a good, good way. 

So, why you would go after someone like that and not expect the fiercest kind of push back that he or she can generate doesn’t make sense. So, in a way, look, you’re talking about a high school student. He’s smart enough to know what will hurt Laura Ingraham. 

And, by the way, you’re so right. It was almost a week — you negotiation April 12th. Same language in the headlines, preplanned vacation that Bill O’Reilly left year. On the 19th, they fired him. So, that’s a chilling precedent. 

STELTER: Yes, the thing though — right. The thing is O’Reilly is so different because those were secret settlements. It was a national scandal. 

This was really just a stupid tweet, right? 

ZURAWIK: Well, Brian, you know what? I don’t — you know, maybe it’s generational. But I think if you tweet and you work in the mainstream media, you might as well publish it on the front page of “The New York Times.” 

You don’t get to say it’s a stupid tweet. I see that with a lot of younger people. Well, I took the tweet down after I saw that people were hurt. I want to go, no, you published it. You — this is like publishing slander or libel. Look — 

STELTER: She did apologize though. She did apologize. I think the fact these students are under attack in the first place, though, proves they’re winning, proves how much political power they have. 

ZURAWIK: Totally, and — 

STELTER: Anthony, let me get your take on this ad boycott issue because you work at Comedy Central. 


STELTER: You’ve been on the air mocking President Trump, critiquing President Trump. 


STELTER: You could turn around tomorrow and see people coming after your advertisers. What’s your view of this? 

ATAMANUIK: Well, I think that David really has it right, which is that it also has to do with the position somebody’s in. I mean, part of speech is in a capitalist society hitting people in the pocketbook. If you want to affect the way or have repercussions for how you speak out against somebody, then a good way is to remove their advertisers. 

I mean, I think one of the big issues here is that Laura Ingraham was not in some sort of capacity as a radio host or TV show host in that moment. This was a personal attack from the position that she has. You have to meet that with something just as strong. 

And I think the other thing that’s really dangerous, in my view, is also this echo chamber of — especially in the right wing and sometimes in the left of saying really egregious things simply to get attention. And I think the most amazing thing to me is these young kids have more maturity and purpose than most of the folks who are trying to cover the story, especially at Fox. I find it a disingenuous argument to say they’ve been put into or provoked or paid into becoming activists. These are survivors of a tragedy. 

I think you have to also take into account the idea that this is, what, weeks ago, right, maybe a month ago. Could you imagine going through something like that and having the ability to speak on the Washington mall and activate yourself while pushing into the back of your mind what you have suffered through? 

So, I think that this — you know, these ‘90s and aughts radio host folks who have become faces of Fox News are realizing that acting like wrestling heels and saying whatever you want is unfortunately not the way it works, and that meeting speech with speech is fine, but part of speech in our culture is money. 


STELTER: I want to turn to Sinclair for a moment. There’s been a lot of — 


ATAMANUIK: Thank you. Ed Harris should play you, David, in a movie. (CROSSTALK)

ATAMANUIK: That’s a great — I hadn’t seen that. But you’re right. Yes.

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