Angelo Carusone On CNN's Smerconish: No One Is Defending What O'Reilly Did "Except For The Co-Presidents Of Fox News"
Media Matters President Angelo Carusone: "Bill O'Reilly's Show Will Lose Somewhere Between $20 To $25 Million This Year Alone In Lost Revenue As A Result Of This Advertiser Exodus"
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From the April 8 edition of CNN's Smerconish:
MICHAEL SMERCONISH (HOST): Did you personally play a role with [former The O'Reilly Factor advertiser] Angie's List, did you communicate with them?
ANGELO CARUSONE: I did, along with a lot of #StopOReilly participants, an organization out there called Sleeping Giants, which represents consumers. I spoke to Angie's List yesterday, and they confirmed for me that they are no longer advertising on Bill O'Reilly's program. And I think that's because they came to recognize that it's not about what Bill O'Reilly is saying or the content of his program, but it's actually about what Bill O'Reilly did and whether or not they want to continue to associate their business with that kind of conduct. It's very different than the content of what he's actually saying, and I think that's an important distinction to draw right at the top.
SMERCONISH: But doesn't it represent a form of censorship? I mean, if this really were of such import that it drove away the audience, then the audience would flee O'Reilly. But instead, you don't lean on the audience, you lean instead on the advertisers.
CARUSONE: I don't see this as a censorship issue because it's not about the content of his program. In fact, it really is a personnel issue. Any other employer would have held an employee accountable for the things that Bill O'Reilly is doing, but there's clearly a culture and an epidemic of sexual harassment and worse at Fox News, and they've also covered it up and sort of tried to sweep it under the rug. And so, in any other case the employer would have held their employee accountable. They didn't do it with Bill O'Reilly, and so in this scenario, you're seeing the business associates hold it accountable. And that's not my opinion, that's reflected in the statements that the advertisers are giving, because they're not just saying, you know, we don't want to advertise anymore, we want to avoid controversy, that kind of thing. They're taking very strong stances about their positions on sexual harassment, and that's because when they're out there speaking, they're speaking as much to their current and prospective customers as they are to their own employees. They have to make it clear that they will not tolerate this kind of conduct.
In terms of the ratings, if you have ratings and you can't commercialize your ratings, that means that your ratings mean absolutely nothing, and that's reflected even at the top of this segment when you sort of laid out not just the reduction in the number of paid ads on his program, but also in the quality of the advertising that's on his show. I did some back-of-the-napkin math, and Bill O'Reilly's show will lose somewhere between $20 to $25 million this year alone in lost revenue as a result of this advertiser exodus.
In terms of his audience, again, I don't think it's about trying to persuade people. I don't see his audience out there defending him. I've done similar advertiser education efforts before, and I saw blowback and pushback from Glenn Beck's supporters and Rush Limbaugh supporters. There are not Bill O'Reilly supporters screaming in the streets, you know, saying, "Hey, you should not be doing this to Bill O'Reilly." Fine, they might be still buying his books, but he doesn't have anyone actually defending what he's saying except for the co-presidents of -- defending what he did except for the co-presidents of Fox News. But his people are not defending what he did.
SMERCONISH: One last observation, if I can, and you can respond to this, it's another one from [Politico's] Jack Shafer, I thought he wrote effectively on this: "The O’Reilly boycott is a bad idea. Even if you hate the guy, think of it this way: It may end up energizing calls for advertising boycotts against the on-air talent you like, inspiring timidity among ad buyers who are already too timid." Do you worry that now there could be similar reactions to those personalities on the left who politically you welcome their statements and remarks?
CARUSONE: If an on-air personality, regardless of their ideology or what they're saying, engages in serial sexual harassment, that network should take care of it. And if that network doesn't take care of it, then that means that they're creating a business problem for themselves. It's bad business to tolerate this stuff, and that's reflected here right now. I don't think this is about ideology, and I think trying to collapse it down there is insufficient and doesn't grasp the whole thing. I'm not out there persuading people to suddenly care about this, but I do think that the role that we're playing, and an important role, is giving the context to show that it's not a few one offs or isolated incidents, that it's actually part of a deeper pattern. When you make that point, that's why the businesses see this as a business decision. They recognize that they cannot not only not tolerate this, but that as a result of the mismanagement that's already been displayed, there's likely more to come. And so they're making a business choice, and I respect those decisions.