Nearly 15 years ago, Fox News host Bill O’Reilly used his television and radio shows to call for an advertiser boycott of Pepsi “for using a man who degrades women” in an ad, a reference to the rapper Ludacris. In recent days, O’Reilly has been losing advertisers for his show following a report that he and Fox’s parent company, 21st Century Fox, paid nearly $13 million in settlements to five women after they accused him of sexual harassment and verbal abuse.
Advertisers Flee The O’Reilly Factor Over Sexual Harassment Allegations
CBS: Advertisers Flee The O’Reilly Factor As Sexual Harassment Allegations Come To Light. According to CBS News, at least 19 companies have removed their advertisements from Fox News’ The O’Reilly Factor since a New York Times report found that host Bill O’Reilly and Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, paid $13 million to five women who said O’Reilly sexually harassed or otherwise abused them. In a statement, O’Reilly has denied the accusations, claiming he is “vulnerable” due to what CBS described as his “high-powered job at Fox.” From the April 5 report:
When Fox News host Bill O’Reilly was accused of sexual harassment by a former producer more than a decade ago, advertisers stuck by the cable news personality. Today, a growing number of companies are distancing themselves from his popular show, “The O’Reilly Factor,” following a spate of new allegations of various improprieties.
So far, at least 19 advertisers have pulled their spots or promised to do so. They include household names such as automakers BMW, Lexus, Mercedes-Benz and Mitsubishi, drugmakers GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi, and financial services stalwarts Allstate and T. Rowe Price, as well as less known brands such as Constant Contact. Other businesses moving to cut ties with O’Reilly’s show include Ainsworth Pet Nutrition, which is associated with talk show host Rachel (sic) Ray; life sciences company Bayer; Hyundai; weight-loss company Jenny Craig; and men’s shirt seller UNTUCKit.
A Fox News spokesperson didn’t respond to a request for comment. In a previous statement, the media company said that while the Fox News host “denies the merits of these claims, Mr. O’Reilly has resolved those he regarded as his personal responsibility.”
O’Reilly, 67, denies wrongdoing, saying in an April 1 statement that his high-powered job at Fox makes him “vulnerable” to lawsuits and that in his 20 years at Fox News he has never been the subject of a complaint filed with the company’s HR department. [CBS News, 4/5/17]
O’Reilly Previously Demanded Pepsi Cancel Ludacris Ad Because He’s “A Man Who Degrades Women”
O’Reilly In 2002: “I'm Calling For All Responsible Americans To Fight Back And Punish Pepsi For Using A Man Who Degrades Women.” In 2002, O’Reilly used his program to urge Pepsi to ditch a TV ad featuring the rapper Ludacris. He called for a boycott of Pepsi for using “a man who degrades women.” From a Nexis transcript of the August 27, 2002, edition of The O’Reilly Factor:
BILL O’REILLY (HOST): Take the Pepsi challenge. Well, forget it. I am challenging Pepsi over its choice of a paid spokesman. That is the subject of this evening's “Talking Points” memo.
On the MTV Award program, Pepsi-Cola will run commercials featuring the rapper Ludacris, who some consider more vile than Eminem, if that's possible.
Apparently all that is fine with Pepsi.
On The Radio Factor today, I spoke with Pepsi PR guy Bart Casabona.
BART CASABONA, PEPSI SPOKESMAN: Ludacris is one of today's most popular performers, and he's broadly appealing among teens of all ethnicities.
CASABONA: And that's really what we target with these, you know, advertisements.
O'REILLY: So you don't really care about his morals or the message that he puts out?
O'REILLY: What I'm arguing is that you're legitimizing a man who is demeaning just about everybody, and is peddling antisocial behavior. You have no conscious qualms about that?
CASABONA: I mean, obviously, you know, we would never associate our trademarks with inappropriate behavior. Ludacris, in our ads, are -- is certainly focused about conveying fun, optimistic messages to our audience.
O’REILLY: Now for the “Top Story” tonight. Another point of view on this. Joining us now from Los Angeles is Leon Wynter, the author of American Skin: Pop Culture, Big Business, and the End of White America.
So am I wrong, Mr. Wynter?
LEON WYNTER: I think you might be confusing Pepsi's promotion of its product with Pepsi's promotion of Ludacris. Yes, I do think you're wrong to the extent that you believe that this is something new. In fact, this horse has long since left the barn, and it's too late to slam the door on the invasion of popular culture, of hip-hop popular culture and urban popular culture into the marketing mainstream.
O'REILLY: All right. Well, look, just because you think that it's in and the bottle is off, doesn't mean that I have to accept it as an American consumer. So I'm calling for all responsible Americans to fight back and punish Pepsi for using a man who degrades women, who encourages substance abuse, and does all the things that hurt particularly the poor in our society. [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 8/27/02, via Nexis]
O'Reilly Immediately Praised His Viewers For Pushing Pepsi To Drop The Ludacris Ad. In a video unearthed by Yashar Ali, O'Reilly praised his viewers for pressuring and successfully getting Ludacris dropped from Pepsi. From the August 28, 2002, edition of The O’Reilly Factor:
— Yashar (@yashar) April 5, 2017
[Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 8/28/02, via Twitter]
O’Reilly Took Credit For Pepsi Dropping Ludacris Ad, Urged Viewers To Target Other Companies: “Capitalism Swings Both Ways.” After telling his viewers the next night that Pepsi had canceled the Ludacris ad, O’Reilly urged them to move on to other companies and target them for “hiring corrupters and incompetents,” adding, “Capitalism swings both ways.” From a Nexis transcript of the August 28, 2002, edition of The O’Reilly Factor:
BILL O’REILLY (HOST): Last night Talking Points hammered Pepsi for hiring thug rapper Ludacris to do a commercial on the MTV award program. Ludacris espouses violence, intoxication, and degrading conduct toward women. Apparently thousands of you let Pepsi know Ludacris was unacceptable, and today they canceled him. In a statement issued a short time ago, Pepsi says, quote, “We've heard from a number of people that were uncomfortable with our association with this artist. We've decided to discontinue our ad campaign and we're sorry that we've offended anyone.”
Well, we applaud Pepsi's decision. But there's a bigger story here, and that is a growing trend in America to reward disgraceful conduct.
Examples, while on vacation last week, I got a look at this Anna Nicole Smith Show on the E! cable channel. And I got to say, Miss Smith is a complete embarrassment. She's mindless, self-absorbed, has nothing to say, and looks bad saying it. Why does she have her own TV show? The answer is that E! has hired Miss Smith because she's notorious. She bought large breasts, then posed naked, then married an 89-year-old rich guy and got a ton of money when he died. So that's the woman's resume.
E! should be ashamed, because there are thousands of other talented American women that could do a decent program.
Likewise, Fox Sportsnet, The Best Damn Sports Show is a very entertaining program. I've been on it twice. But now they've hired former Dallas Cowboy Michael Irvin. Irvin was constantly involved with drugs and scandal in his career and brings nothing to the program. He's there because he's notorious, while other talented sports guys don't get a chance.
How about Monica Lewinsky? She's been paid hundreds of thousands of dollars by a variety of loons because she had sex with Bill Clinton.
The point is that some Americans are apparently fine with rewarding abysmal behavior. Eminem gets a Grammy. Mike Tyson gets a boxing license.
But as Factor viewers proved last night, other Americans will not stand for this any more. Thus Pepsi was forced to sack Ludacris, and it is you that made that happen.
Talking Points says let's continue using that kind of power. Americans should let the merchants of bad taste know that hiring corrupters and incompetents is not acceptable. Let the companies know how you feel. Capitalism swings both ways.
Sorry about that, Ludacris. [Fox News, The O’Reilly Factor, 8/28/02, via Nexis]
Image by Sarah Wasko