Backlash Against Boycott of Glenn Beck
Sunday, August 23, 2009 5:32 PM
By: David A. Patten
A left-wing group’s effort to intimidate corporate advertisers on Fox News’ Glenn Beck show appears to be backfiring as it triggers a wave of support from grass-roots fans rushing to defend the popular TV personality from the attacks.
Even before the liberal boycott of Glenn Beck began this summer, the best-selling author and TV host had became a ratings superstar, with his 5 p.m. cable news program pulling mega prime-time viewership numbers. Beck also had become a lightning rod for liberal groups who didn’t like his anti-Obama message and his staggeringly large audience.
But now Beck’s fame seems to be growing even more as a spontaneous, nationwide effort has sprung up among fans to defend their hero, including Web sites, Facebook groups, homegrown e-mail blasts, and individual telephone campaigns.
The reaction in support of Beck comes in the wake of the advertiser-boycott campaign launched by Color of Change, an African-American advocacy organization with close ties to the Obama White House.
Although the group garnered some success initially, it appears that it is making claims that don’t match reality, with several major companies claiming they never joined any boycott of Beck’s show.
Major advertisers such as Wal-Mart, CVS, ConAgra, and Sargento have directed Fox News not to air their ads during the Glenn Beck Program, according to Color of Change.
The group probably would have been dismissed as a gadfly were it not for its high-level connections to the Obama White House. Color of Change co-founder Van Jones now works in the Obama administration as the president's "green jobs czar."
Beck has been a fearless critic of both President Obama and Jones, whose association with Color of Change was said to have ended in December 2007.
Color of Change Executive Director James Rucker tells Newsmax that his organization wants Beck silenced for his July remark on Fox & Friends that Obama -s "racist" — an opinion Beck voiced in the context of the president’s chastising of the Cambridge Police Department and Sgt. James Crowley for acting "stupidly" in arresting Harvard professor Henry Louis Gates.
"It's preposterous and absurd," Rucker tells Newsmax of Beck's utterance. "It's insulting to black Americans, and it corrupts honest debate. Anyone who uses such a platform to spew such vitriol, whether Glenn Beck or anyone else, has no place on the air, and we at Color Of Change would use every resource available to us to remove corporate sponsorship from their platform."
Beck's enemies on the left, however, have awakened a sleeping giant in their campaign to destroy Beck.
Like the town hall protesters, Beck's supporters are rising up to declare they're fed up and not going to take it anymore. And joining in their counterattack are some of the most respected voices in conservative media.
"Glenn Beck is to be congratulated," New York Times best-selling author Peter Schweizer tells Newsmax. "They only go after you when you are being effective — he must really be causing them problems."
And Rich Noyes, research director for the conservative Media Research Council watchdog organization, says, "I think it tells us a lot about the style of politics coming from the organized left and this White House. They want to be so strenuous in going after their adversaries that they have a take-no-prisoners approach. I think it would be unthinkable if conservatives, particularly those affiliated with the Bush White House, had gone after a media figure associated with one of the other networks."
Conservative icon and direct-marketing expert Richard Viguerie tells Newsmax: "That's Chicago politics. We're seeing the Chicago-ization of politics. We hear how dangerous it is for some of these people to come in the vicinity of the president with a weapon. Then we see the chairman of a powerful committee, Henry Waxman, issuing subpoenas to 50 insurance executives for their corporate records. That's how they play the game. They will use any method they can to attain power and then hold onto that power. They tried to do the same with Rush Limbaugh, but Rush Limbaugh is too big for them to handle. This is how Democrats operate."
On Thursday, DC Examiner editorial page editor Mark Tapscott wrote: "Funny, I don't recall that the First Amendment guarantees freedom of expression to everybody except those whose opinions the four members of ColorofChange.org find ‘repulsive and divisive.’"
Tapscott called on readers to conduct a reverse boycott against the companies bowing to left-wing pressure, who are pulling their ads from Beck's program. Those companies, Tapscott says, "are aiding and abetting a vicious, political campaign to slander him by an outfit apparently created for just such a purpose."
A reverse boycott is precisely what's taking place.
On Aug. 16, Beck supporter John Hill launched a Web site, DefendGlenn.com. Five days later, the site had recorded 1.9 million visits, racked up 1,033 Twitter followers, and garnered 5,800 user comments on its "Support Wall," Hill says.
"Let your voice be heard! Fight back against the lies and the extremist boycott of Glenn Beck," the site declares.
DefendGlenn.com provides contact information for companies that have pulled their advertising. It also lists and encourages the companies who have stuck with the Beck program.
"We launched DefendGlenn basically just to counter a lot of the distortions and lies that were put out by this group Color of Change, which we saw weren't being countered at all," Hill tells Newsmax.
Among the messages fans left on the DefendGlenn "Support Wall" to show their support for Beck:
"Freedom of speech applies to all speech, even those from the right," wrote Matt Elmore of Woodbridge, Va.
"You are not alone, but like Gen. Washington, out in front of the troops," wrote Michael Lyon of Estero, Fla.
"Never give up,” Leonor Godwin of Stephenville, Texas, wrote him. “They are trying to break you. You are our inspiration and our rock."
Hill also tells Newsmax he has received 5,000 e-mails from people who tell him they are canceling their Geico insurance policy because the company has joined the boycott against Beck, and about 6,500 e-mails from consumers who say they never will buy a Sargento product again.
"I don't want to do that," Hill tells Newsmax. "I think boycotts are stupid. But if they're going to join the boycott, boycotts work two ways. Earlier in the week, the companies were saying, 'Yeah we're dropping the ads.’ But as soon as people started getting in touch with them, they started denying they were dropping anything.'"
Other Beck supporters also are getting into the act. They include an upstate New York stay-at-home mom who became alarmed when she saw the orchestrated campaign to make one of the most independent voices in American media a pariah. Already a member of the 912 organization Beck initiated to recapture the nonpartisan spirit of unity the nation experienced after the 9/11 terror attacks, she created SupportGlennBeck.com.
The site includes a petition that states: “Through his radio and television show, he promotes God, family, and country — which resonates with a majority of Americans.
“There are some people who have an ideological problem with Glenn Beck. These people will not be satisfied until voices such as Glenn’s are silenced. For the millions of us who share Glenn’s values, there is nothing more frightening than losing our forum,” the petition states.
The growing pro-Beck movement has also reached social networking sites. One example: Beck supporter Doug Edelman of St. Louis has established a new Facebook group, “Defend Glenn Beck Against Thug Inspired Boycott.” During its first week, more than 790 members joined the group, which includes a statement of support for Beck and lists contact information for companies that are said to be boycotting his show.
The anti-Beck activists claim that more than 20 advertisers have dropped the Beck program. Hill and others on the pro-Beck side dispute say Color of Change has greatly exaggerated the effect of its boycott.
Many of the companies the organization lists now deny they have anything to do with the boycott. Newsmax contacted Procter & Gamble, Progressive Insurance, SC Johnson, and Radio Shack, all of which said they have not directed Fox News to pull their ads from the Glenn Beck Program, as Color of Change has stated.
In fact, these companies’ representatives tell Newsmax that, as a matter of corporate policy, they never did advertise on the Glenn Beck Program and ask how they could boycott a program they never placed an ad on in the first place.
Another company, State Farm, tells Newsmax that its ad was never supposed to air on the Glenn Beck Program. State Farm has a longstanding company policy against advertising on any "political or opinion programming," its spokesman says.
Having discovered the error, State Farm says, it will not be advertising on any cable talk show. And it is careful to emphasize it is not singling out Beck in this regard.
As State Farm’s response suggests, the net effect of the anti-Beck crusade probably will be fewer advertisers willing to advertise on the talk shows of any cable network.
Consider, for example, the corporate response from Clorox. On Thursday, company executives wrote Hill stating: “After a comprehensive review of political talk shows across the spectrum, at this time we have made a decision not to advertise on political talk shows.”
Assuming the pro-Beck backlash continues, that probably means the activist campaign intended to hurt Beck will, ironically, damage Beck’s progressive competitors more than it hurts him.
Lost ads will impact smaller networks such as MSNBC far more than it will affect ratings juggernaut Fox News, industry sources say.
Nearly 2.5 million viewers tuned in to Beck’s show in its 5 p.m. Eastern time slot last week, according to Mediabistro’s TV Newser. Beck’s ratings on Fox exceeded those of CNN, MSNBC, and Headline News combined.
All of which calls into question whether advertiser boycotts work anyway.
“It’s funny because I think their calculation is that by going after advertisers they are going to affect his bottom line,” Schweizer says. “But this is a common misperception of liberals. Beck isn’t in this for the money. So even if they could succeed, they won’t silence him.”
Michael Harrison has seen plenty of media campaigns come and go as publisher of Talkers Magazine. “My guess,” he says, “is he will weather this storm.”
“Beck expected to get hostile feedback, and a whole bunch of publicity, and he succeeded on both counts,” Harrison says. “People have the right to be offended and businesses have the right to spend their advertising dollars however they choose. Free speech guarantees the right of having an opinion without government censorship. It doesn’t guarantee that people won’t be angry and withhold their support. The free marketplace of ideas is not for the faint hearted!”
And for ratings giant Fox, Beck’s remarkable connection with viewers has made the free market a profitable one indeed. “The advertisers referenced have all moved their spots from Beck to other programs on the network,” a Fox spokesman recently told Ad Age, “so there is no revenue lost.”
Below are companies listed on the DefendGlenn site as having joined the Color of Change boycott against Glenn Beck:
President and CEO Mark B. Hales
6985 Union Park Center
Midvale, Utah 84047
Broadview Security (Brinks)
Robert B. Allen
8880 Esters Blvd,
Irving, Texas 75063
CVS Caremark Corp.
Thomas M. Ryan
One CVS Drive
Woonsocket, R.I. 02895
Chairman and CEO Tony Nicely
5260 Western Ave.
Chevy Chase, Md. 20815
Healthy Choice Foods
A subsidiary of
ConAgra Foods Inc.
President and CEO Gary M. Rodkin
1 ConAgra Drive
Omaha, Neb. 68102-5001
A subsidiary of
CEO Andrew Prozes
121 Chanlon Road
New Providence, N.J. 07974
Chairman and CEO George Zimmer
6380 Rogerdale Road
Houston, Texas 77072
President and CEO Gregory Irace
55 Corporate Drive
Bridgewater, N.J. 08807
Sargento Foods Inc.
Chairman and CEO Louis Gentine
One Persnickety Place
Plymouth, Wis. 53073
Chairman and CEO Edward B. Rust Jr.
(877) 734-2265 (Ask for a “Representative”)
1 State Farm Plaza
Bloomington, Ill. 61710-0001