In March 2018, Fox News commentator Laura Ingraham posted criticisms of David Hogg, who had survived the February 2018 shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas (MSD) High School in Parkland, Florida, on Twitter. She was widely accused of bullying him. In response, Hogg called for advertisers to boycott Ingraham’s popular television show, leading a number of sponsors to drop out and sparking conversation about the Free Speech implications of advertiser boycotts.
Laura Ingraham is a conservative commentator known for her nationally syndicated radio program and for her Fox News talk show, “The Ingraham Angle.” The latter premiered in October 2017 and garnered 3.3 million viewers upon its debut. Since then, it has often occupied the top position for its time slot against CNN and MSNBC competitors.
David Hogg is one of the founding members of Never Again MSD, a group of Parkland survivors who advocate for gun control and helped organize the March for Our Lives rally against gun violence in March 2018. Hogg has also been the target of conspiracy theories claiming he is a “crisis actor” involved in the falsification of the Parkland shooting.
On March 28, Ingraham tweeted out an article from The Daily Wire that called Hogg a “gun rights provocateur” and discussed the rejection by colleges. She wrote, “David Hogg Rejected By Four Colleges To Which He Applied and whines about it. (Dinged by UCLA with a 4.1 GPA…totally predictable given acceptance rates.)”
Ingraham received immediate backlash online from those accusing her of “bullying” Hogg. Soon after, Hogg called on Ingraham’s advertisers to boycott “The Ingraham Angle.”
“Soooo @IngrahamAngle what are your biggest advertisers … Asking for a friend. #BoycottIngramAdverts,” he wrote in a March 28 tweet.
By March 29, at least eight companies — including TripAdvisor, Johnson & Johnson, Nestle, and Hulu — had withdrawn their ads from Ingraham’s television program. Days later, other companies, such as Allstate and Honda, dropped their sponsorship of the show, which had previously been an advertising draw for Fox. Twenty-seven companies ultimately pulled their ads from “The Ingraham Angle,” and advertising time on the show was nearly halved.
Several of the companies that removed their ads said Ingraham’s remarks did not align with their values. TripAdvisor, through a spokesperson, said Ingraham’s statements “cross the line of decency.” In an internal memo, Allstate wrote that “Laura Ingraham’s comments about David Hogg were inconsistent with our values.”
In the wake of the boycotts, Ingraham issued an apology to Hogg. “On reflection, in the spirit of Holy Week, I apologize for any upset or hurt my tweet caused him or any of the brave victims of Parkland,” she wrote in a March 29 tweet. Ingraham also invited Hogg to “return to the show anytime for a productive discussion.”
Hogg, however, made it publically clear he was unmoved by Ingraham’s apology. “She only apologized after we went after her advertisers,” he said. “It kind of speaks for itself.”
Public figures come to Ingraham’s defense, citing Free Speech
After companies began to pull advertisements, several public personalities came to Ingraham’s defense.
Bill Maher, a well-known commentator who anchors the politically oriented Real Talk with Bill Maher on HBO, argued Hogg’s call for the boycott was an overreaction to Ingraham’s “bullying.” On his April 6 program, Maher said advertising boycotts are a “modern way of cutting off free speech.”
CNN host Brian Stelter also questioned the appropriateness of advertising boycotts on an April 1 episode of his program, “Reliable Sources,” calling them “dangerous.”
“Let’s not shut down anyone’s right to speak,” Stelter said. “Let’s meet their comments with more speech.”
Ingraham takes time off, returns to increased ratings
In the wake of the controversy, Ingraham took a week off from “The Ingraham Angle,” for a vacation with her family and returned to air April 9. Her resumption of th program brought the show’s highest ratings ever, averaging over 3 million viewers — a 25 percent bump compared to the first three months of 2018.
Jack Abernathy, co-president of Fox News, reaffirmed the network’s support of Ingraham, saying, “we cannot and will not allow voices to be censored by agenda-driven intimidation efforts.”
Maya Gandhi ’20
Uploaded June 26, 2018