Company faces backlash for pulling Hannity ads
NEW YORK (AP) — Financial services firm USAA, facing a backlash to its decision to pull advertising from Sean Hannity’s show on Fox News Channel, says it is withdrawing from other opinion-based television programs.
The company, which sells insurance and other products to members of the U.S. military, veterans and their families, had cited its aversion to opinionated programming in backing away from Hannity. The veteran talk show host has become a liberal target because of his focus on a discredited story about a murdered Democratic National Committee staffer.
Yet the conservative watchdog Media Research Center noted that USAA ads had run in recent weeks on left-leaning shows hosted by Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell and Chris Matthews on MSNBC.
The ads were placed in error and that mistake is being corrected, said Roger Wildermuth, USAA spokesman. It wasn’t clear how the ads could be placed in at least four opinion-based shows in violation of the company’s policy; he didn’t immediately respond to a question about whether there were more.
Since the liberal advocacy group Media Matters for America posted a list of more than 150 of Hannity’s advertisers earlier this week, nine companies have said they no longer wanted to be sponsors. That’s only a fraction of the companies that backed out of the since-fired Bill O’Reilly’s Fox show last month after news of settlements paid to women to quiet harassment claims.
USAA’s decision was particularly disappointing since Hannity has supported veterans organizations, said Brent Bozell, president of the Media Research Center.
The decision provoked an angry response. A Memorial Day posting on the company’s Facebook page had nearly 500 comments Friday afternoon, many from people protesting the Hannity decision and vowing to move accounts from USAA.
One woman wrote: “with one boneheaded move, you’ve made me start looking for a new house and auto insurance, a new bank, a new investment manager.”
“It was even more intense than I expected it would be,” Bozell said, “and I expected it would be intense.”
USAA noted that other companies had seen a backlash from their decisions, too. Wildermuth said USAA’s decision on Hannity was not the result of outside pressure.
“We will continually review our ad placements to ensure we are consistent with our policy,” he said.