Coffee-maker Keurig frantically walked back its announced “pause” in advertising with Fox News’ Hannity on Monday after furious conservatives launched a counter-protest — but the standing of an allegedly similar boycott of Breitbart News is unresolved.
Keurig found itself in hot water after it announced via Twitter on Saturday that it was boycotting advertising on Sean Hannity’s show over his coverage of the allegations of sexual misconduct against Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. Moore has denied the most serious allegations leveled against him, and Hannity was perceived as giving him a sympathetic hearing in the wake of the allegations.
The campaign, initiated by hard-left activist group Media Matters for America demanded that Keurig and other companies boycott Hannity’s show, which led the company maker to announce that it “worked with our media partner and [Fox News] to stop our ad from airing during the Sean Hannity Show.
Angelo, thank you for your concern and for bringing this to our attention. We worked with our media partner and FOX news to stop our ad from airing during the Sean Hannity Show.
— Keurig (@Keurig) November 11, 2017
The resulting controversy, with Twitter hashtags calling for boycotts and videos of angry conservatives destroying Keurig’s coffee makers, forced CEO Bob Gamgort to apologize to employees for the plan being announced on social media.
Addressing the controversy, Gamgort laid out what went wrong:
In most situations such as this one, we would “pause” our advertising on that particular program and reevaluate our go-forward strategy at a later date. That represents a prudent “business as usual” decision for us, as the protection of our brand is our foremost concern. However, the decision to publicly communicate our programming decision via our Twitter account was highly unusual. This gave the appearance of “taking sides” in an emotionally charged debate that escalated on Twitter and beyond over the weekend, which was not our intent.
Hannity was conciliatory, saying that, in his opinion, Keurig was a “victim of a group with a radical agenda, and they didn’t know.”
Yet it appears that it is not the first time Keurig has taken sides in a political debate at the behest of an agenda-driven progressive outlet.
In March, “Sleeping Giants” — a shadowy and anonymous online group that tries to force advertisers to boycott “racist and sexist media” under which it includes Breitbart News — announced on Twitter that Keurig had joined their expanding list of companies pulling their ads from Breitbart News. The announcement came shortly after one of its activists had put pressure on Keurig, urging the company to “defund hate.”
— Sleeping Giants (@slpng_giants) March 9, 2017
Many ads on Breitbart News are placed through ad networks, so the publications can’t see who has banned them. But according to one Breitbart executive no Keurig ads have run on any Breitbart site since Sleeping Giants made their claim in March.
One ad industry executive with experience in brand boycotts, speaking on condition of anonymity, suggested that such boycotts tend to hurt, rather than help, companies.
“These political pressure groups are becoming toxic for brands,” the executive said. “Giving in to demands to ban advertising in any program for political reasons, except in the most egregious circumstances, is far more likely to harm than help business. Keurig is another example of that.”
Keurig did not respond to multiple requests for comment from Breitbart News about if they had caved into a Sleeping Giants demand, and if they would reconsider, now that they have seen how they were apparently misled by Media Matters for America.
But if Sleeping Giants is accurate, then it would indicate that the Hannity boycott is indeed part of a broader strategy against right-wing outlets — but this time the company got caught.
Breitbart News’ Lucas Nolan contributed to this report.
Adam Shaw is a Breitbart News politics reporter based in New York. Follow Adam on Twitter: @AdamShawNY.