Boycott of Sean Hannity’s Fox News show is largely ignored by advertisers, and viewers

Fox News host Sean Hannity in March 2016. A liberal advocacy group's call on advertisers to boycott Hannity's show has gotten minimal response.
(Carolyn Kaster / Associated Press)

More than a month after a liberal advocacy group publicly called on advertisers to boycott Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News Channel, luxury carmaker Cadillac has been the only new company to publicly back away from the program.

While Hannity has appeared largely impervious to the efforts against him, opponents say they’re not giving up.

“Hannity” averaged nearly 2.7 million viewers in August, making it the second-most popular program in cable news behind MSNBC’s “The Rachel Maddow Show,” according to Nielsen. Starting Monday, Hannity moves back to the 9 p.m. Eastern time slot he previously occupied, taking Maddow on directly.

Fox wouldn’t discuss his advertising.


Cadillac pulled its commercials in response to commentary on Hannity’s program following violence at a rally held by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Va.

“In the strongest possible terms, we at Cadillac condemn any form of racism or discrimination,” company spokesman Andrew Lipman said. “We have a zero-tolerance policy as it pertains to any of our employees and business partners.”

Angelo Carusone, president of the media watchdog that called for the boycott, Media Matters for America, said that luxury carmakers Land Rover and Mercedes Benz have also abandoned Hannity. A Land Rover spokesman, Stuart Schorr, said that while the car is currently not being advertised on “Hannity,” the company is not participating in a boycott and its advertising strategy “evolves and changes.” Mercedes representatives did not return queries about the company’s plans.

Media Matters said about a dozen advertisers have told the organization they will not purchase commercials in Hannity’s show in the future; some have current contracts and are staying put until those commitments are completed.

Efforts against Hannity were partly triggered by his promotion of a story suggesting that a Democratic National Committee staffer who was killed last year may have been involved in a leak of Wikileaks documents. Hannity is the most visible and vehement supporter of President Trump on the most influential media outlet for conservatives.

Boycott efforts frequently go nowhere, but Carusone’s track record made this one worth watching. He was involved in trying to get advertisers to back away from Bill O’Reilly this past spring following reports of settlements made in sexual harassment cases against him. Advertisers, and Fox, quickly abandoned him.

Carusone is trying to convince media buyers and companies that Hannity’s show is too controversial for their products. His prediction: “As long as he continues the same kind of programming he’s been providing the last couple of years, I think that he is not commercially viable by Christmastime.”

However, the number of people who have clicked on a website — in the thousands during the summer — has slowed to a trickle, said Nate Lerner of the Democratic Coalition Against Trump.

The boycott call angers Hannity’s supporters. Members of the Tea Party Patriots responded with their own protest calls to companies that said this spring they were backing away from Hannity’s show. The financial services firm USAA felt the backlash and responded by taking advertising off all opinion-based programming.