The dismissal of Bill O’Reilly from Fox News serves as a warning to conservative TV, radio hosts and websites that use advertising as a revenue source to fund programming and news coverage.
After years of complaining about conservative voices and alternative news outlets, progressive activists found a silver bullet to silence opposing news and speech.
The goal is simple; destroy the business models of news organizations that challenge left-wing ideology by attacking their advertisers.
The decision by Fox News to end "The O’Reilly Factor," a long running and top-rated cable TV program, was significantly influenced by corporate advertisers abandoning the program.
Following a story in The New York Times that Fox News and Bill O’Reilly had settled $13 million in lawsuits from five women over misconduct charges including sexual harassment, a significant number of corporations pulled their ads from "The O’Reilly Factor."
The decision to stop advertising was not from falling viewership but was a result of a coordinated effort by progressive activists to target O’Reilly’s corporate advertisers.
A collection of progressive activist groups and a Twitter group participated in the campaign that targeted "The O’Reilly Factor" advertisers.
In an April 6 story, ABC News reported 52 companies stopped advertising on the show and by April 18 the number of advertisers grew to more than 80. Meanwhile, during the controversy surrounding the lawsuit settlements, viewership of "The O’Reilly Factor" grew by 20 percent.
The Blaze.com founder and top-rated radio host Glenn Beck Tweeted an email he said showed long-time Fox News critic Media Matters participated in the effort that targeted O’Reilly’s advertisers.
The email from a Media Matters fundraiser slams O’Reilly as, " . . . one of the worst purveyors of misinformation on Fox News" and it touts the success of the Media Matters campaign where " . . . over 80 advertisers have currently dropped O’Reilly’s show . . . "
Slate.com and Variety also described the details of the progressive activist campaign that targeted advertisers.
Variety detailed the efforts of Color of Change — a black non-profit group — to pressure advertisers to dump "The O’Reilly Factor."
According to the story, Color of Change mobilized its 1.2 million members to contact O’Reilly’s advertisers including, " . . . flooding the social media feeds of advertisers with protest messages."
Color of Change attacking Fox News is not new. The organization mounted a campaign against Glenn Beck’s advertisers when he hosted a show on the network.
Slate reported on the Color of Change effort including its work with other activist groups that coordinated protests outside of Fox News headquarters and an anti-Fox News online campaign that placed ads on Facebook and Fox News job-placement websites.
The campaign to silence conservative speech is not restricted to Fox News. Breitbart News was also targeted by a campaign to pressure companies from advertising on its website.
A New York Times appropriately titled commentary, "How to Destroy the Business Model of Breitbart and Fake News," discussed the campaign against Breitbart.
The anti-Breitbart campaign was led by Sleeping Giants — a Twitter group that targeted Breitbart advertisers. In January, the effort was credited for pressuring 400 advertisers to pull ads from the news website and as of February, Sleeping Giants claim over 1,000 advertisers are no longer with Breitbart.
Sleeping Giants also played a key role in the anti-Bill O’Reilly campaign. In an interview with Katie Couric, an anonymous spokesman for Sleeping Giants described their campaigns against Breitbart and O’Reilly.
It’s political ideology, not morality, that’s driving the campaigns targeting conservative news organizations.
Former late-night comic and TV host David Letterman was involved in sexual relationships with female staffers. Letterman did not face lawsuits but a former female writer for the program said she worked in an environment of "sexual favoritism" — a form of sexual harassment outlined by the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC).
Letterman also made sexual jokes about Sarah Palin’s then 14-year-old daughter.
The National Organization for Women (NOW) criticized Letterman for his "jokes" including once describing Palin as having a "slutty flight attendant look" and raised concerns regarding "the abuse of power leading to an inappropriate, if not hostile, workplace environment for women and employees."
Despite Letterman’s behavior with women, his advertisers were not harassed by progressive activist groups and he kept his job.
Holding O’Reilly’s scalp in hand will only embolden these activist groups and they will likely target conservative media personalities and news Web sites with or without public controversies.
Since the left can’t tolerate criticism of its failed progressive ideology they are using bullying tactics to bankrupt the competition.
Unless conservatives can match the zeal of progressive activists to level the playing field, the current business model for conservative media is endangered.
Given the relentless pressure from progressive activists to silence speech, the future of conservative media will likely be a subscription-based model.
Dr. Tom Borelli is a contributor to Conservative Review. As a columnist he has written for Townhall.com, The Washington Times, Newsmax magazine, and also hosts radio programs on SiriusXM Patriot with his wife Deneen Borelli. Dr. Borelli has appeared on numerous television programs on Newsmax TV, Fox News, Fox Business and TheBlaze. For more of his reports, Go Here Now.
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