Fox News and the anti-abortion film Unplanned have more in common than elevating anti-choice misinformation: They’ve both been heavily subsidized by MyPillow founder Mike Lindell. Despite Fox’s aggressive advertiser losses in the past year, Lindell has remained one of the network’s most loyal supporters -- and the network appears to be rewarding his loyalty, providing over a million dollars in free promotion to Unplanned since the beginning of 2019.
Between January 1 and April 12 of this year, Fox News has aired 33 segments about or including discussion of Unplanned -- equal to roughly $1 million in promotional value. Given that Unplanned reportedly cost $6 million to produce, Fox provided free promotion equivalent to at least one-sixth of the film’s total budget. During Unplanned’s opening week alone, Fox provided the film with approximately $470,310 in free promotion based on Media Matters analysis of the network’s advertising value from March 29 to April 5.
MyPillow has remained one of Fox News’ most consistent advertisers, even as others have fled the network after increasing awareness by many companies that being associated with Fox is bad for business. MyPillow is not only the biggest sponsor of Tucker Carlson Tonight, but the company was also recently cited by Fox News host Laura Ingraham as evidence that advertising with the network is still lucrative. Beyond continuing to advertise on Fox, Lindell also invested $1 million in the film Unplanned, an anti-abortion movie rife with inaccurate information about abortion clinics and procedures. Notably, Lindell makes an appearance in the film as a construction worker "'bulldozing a Planned Parenthood site to make way for the headquarters of an anti-abortion group.'"
Fox has gone above and beyond in promoting the film. The network not only aired clips from the movie and urged viewers to see it, but also granted five interviews to the film’s lead actress, Ashley Bratcher, three with its directors, and one interview with the musician behind the film’s title track, complete with a live musical performance. Unplanned’s marketing has also relied heavily on alleging that the film has been censored, a technique for generating outrage and attention perfected by right-wing and anti-abortion media. Fox News has helped amplify this the inaccurate narrative, repeating the completely unfounded claim that the movie’s Twitter account and wider social media roll-out plan were censored.
It is in Fox’s best interest to keep their advertisers happy, especially as pressure mounts for companies to reconsider associating their products with the network’s reliably toxic content. Just this past weekend, Lindell was granted an episode-long interview on Fox News’ Life, Liberty & Levin -- a rare privilege for an advertiser. By promoting Unplanned, Fox News was able to accomplish two goals at once: spreading anti-abortion misinformation and rewarding one of the network’s most loyal advertisers.
Media Matters searched the SnapStream video database for mentions of “abortion” in close proximity to either “unplanned” or “pro-life” on Fox News Channel between 4 a.m. and midnight starting January 1, 2019 and ending April 12, 2019.
We timed segments, which we defined as instances in which speakers mentioned the movie Unplanned, or alleged “censorship” of the movie’s social media accounts. Segments that were about abortion but did not mention Unplanned or it’s social media accounts were not included. Teasers for upcoming segments were not included. For discussions of the movie in segments generally about abortion, we only timed the relevant speech. Segments included host monologues, news reports or packages, interviews, movie clips, and guest panels. We did not include rebroadcasts.
After determining the amount of time in each segment spent talking about Unplanned, we utilized the media monitoring service iQ media to calculate the amount of advertising value each segment was worth.