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Apple targeted in Fox News ad boycott

August 15, 2009: 9:17 AM ET
Source: Apple Inc.

Source: Apple Inc.

Apple (AAPL), a company that counts Al Gore among its board members and whose CEO once dated Joan Baez, found itself the unlikely target of an advertising boycott campaign this week.

The issue is an iPhone ad that appeared on the Aug. 7 broadcast of the Glenn Beck show on the Fox News Channel (NWS).

Under pressure from advocacy groups, more than a dozen companies, including ConAgra (CAG), Geico, Procter & Gamble (PG) and Progressive (PRG), have pulled their commercials from the conservative commentators' show. (See here.)

The boycott was launched last month by ColorofChange.org after Beck made remarks on Fox and Friends that labeled President Obama a "racist" with a "deep-seated hatred for white people or the white culture."

The campaign was picked up by democrats.com, which provided its members with a list of advertisers and an e-mail form letter that threatens to stop buying the sponsors' products as long as they advertise on Fox News. The organization set a goal of 100,000 letters; as of Saturday morning 46,575 had been sent.

It's not clear how the iPhone ad ended up on the Glenn Beck show. The political blog Daily Kos, which has been monitoring the effects of the boycott, points out that many of the sponsors sticking with the show are "no name companies" like Avodart and Metastock that buy up cheap spots on late night rebroadcasts. Apple is one of the exceptions.

"Apple never used to have any ads on the Glenn Beck show," writes Daily Kos' wikoogle. "Their ads mostly showed up mid afternoon or very latenight on Fox News, and sometimes on the O'Reilly Factor, but never during either Glenn Beck or Sean Hannity. In all likelihood, Apple's ads purchased for very late night airings were moved free of charge to more lucrative spots, without Apple's knowledge." (link)

Although the boycott began after Beck's July 7 remarks about Obama's alleged racism, it was broadened by democrats.com into an attack on Fox News and what it calls the cable network's campaign of "outright hate-mongering and incitement of violence" following Obama's election.

As part of its petition drive, it lists these examples:

  • 6/30/09 Glenn Beck agreed with guest who urged bin Laden to attack U.S. with nuclear weapons: "The only chance we have as a country right now is for Osama bin Laden to deploy and detonate a major weapon in the United States. Because it's going to take a grassroots, bottom-up pressure, because these politicians prize their office, prize the praise of the media and the Europeans. Only — it's an absurd situation. Again, only Osama can execute an attack which will force Americans to demand that their government protect them effectively, consistently, and with as much violence as necessary."
  • 7/25/09 Neil Cavuto and guest said health care reform will impose universal euthanasia like "Soylent Green."
  • 7/28/09 Glenn Beck called President Obama a racist: "The President has exposed himself as a guy ... over and over and over again ... who has a deep-seated hatred for white people ... or the white culture... This man is a racist."
  • 8/6/09 Glenn Beck "joked" about giving Speaker Pelosi a glass of wine with poison.

Apple has not yet responded to a request for comment.

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Philip Elmer-Dewitt
Philip Elmer-DeWitt
Editor, Apple 2.0, Fortune

Philip Elmer-DeWitt has been following Apple since 1982, first for Time Magazine, and now on the Web for Fortune.com.

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