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Advertisers Pull Support From Laura Ingraham's Show After Tweet Mocking Parkland Teen


The cable television host Laura Ingraham has had a bad 48 hours. It began when the Fox News personality called out David Hogg, a survivor of the Parkland shooting, on Twitter for, quote, "whining about being rejected from four colleges." Ingraham was widely criticized for the tweet, but the object of her criticism, David Hogg, responded differently. He tweeted to Ingraham asking her to name her biggest advertisers. Numerous Twitter followers obliged, and in the ensuing hours, at least eight of those advertisers have pulled their sponsorship from her program, "The Ingram Angle."

To talk more about what that means for Ingraham and Fox, we're joined by NPR media correspondent David Folkenflik. Hey, David.


CHANG: So can you just briefly walk us through some of the advertisers who've pulled their sponsorship as of now?

FOLKENFLIK: Sure. Well, let's remember she's a big primetime show for Fox News, the leading cable news channel. So there are some major folks there. Some of the advertisers that have confirmed that they've pulled ads are Johnson & Johnson, the home products store Wayfair, Liberty Mutual a little earlier this afternoon and Hulu. And one of the most surprising things about that - it's a popular video streaming service, offers "Handmaid's Tale" and others - is that Rupert Murdoch's 21st Century Fox, which is the parent company of Fox News, itself pulled ads from Ingraham's show. I think it's a sign of the kind of pressure they felt themselves to be under both from their clients and from a lot of their producers in the creative community out in Hollywood.

CHANG: But Ingraham is known for being a brash, provocative voice. I mean, that's her currency. So why has this tweet against this person touched such a nerve?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, let's not overlook what he survived and what his classmates survived at Parkland - a massacre which took out so many young people filled with promise down there at that high school in Florida. And that - you know, it really weighs upon people as they think about it and think about what she criticized him for in this tweet. She repeated a conservative site's claim that he was whining about being, in their words, dinged by UCLA with his grade point average. This is just sort of personal. It's not just disdain. It's contempt for a guy who's only in the public eye for what he's endured and what he's decided to do about it.

CHANG: Is it surprising to you that a high school student was able to put a boycott like this in motion so easily, so quickly?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, you know, obviously the massacre itself - the nature of that has to take effect. But when we think about mass killings in this country of late, I think what's singular about it is that they are young enough to be - these students - to be immediately embraceable by so much of the population, even those who may not politically be drawn to their cause. They're old enough to be able to articulate their anger and pain in ways that perhaps the survivors of the Newtown massacre were not - those young schoolchildren. And they're young enough to be masters of social media. And I think they've really conquered public rhetoric pretty quickly in a pretty amazing way.

CHANG: This isn't the first time a Fox News host has had advertisers leave over controversy. I mean, I'm thinking of Bill O'Reilly. And he ultimately lost his program. How significant is this for Ingraham and Fox right now, you think?

FOLKENFLIK: Well, I know for a fact that Fox wanted her to address this. She did address it. She said, I apologize for any upset or hurt my tweet caused him or any of the brave victims of Parkland and then kind of went on to do a little bit of a promotion for her show in certain ways. You know, Bill O'Reilly wasn't the only one. If you think of Glenn Beck's departure from Fox News, that was predicated after significant public pressure...

CHANG: Right.

FOLKENFLIK: ...On advertisers, many of whom peeled out. Sean Hannity - although he survived, his coverage of the Seth Rich case, making baseless accusations about DNC emails leaks to WikiLeaks - he survived that, but they took a financial hit over that. And, you know, they are concerned about this happening to Ingraham as well. I think we're going to see how much traction this has.

CHANG: All right, that's NPR's David Folkenflik. Thanks, David.

FOLKENFLIK: You bet. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.