Just Kidding: Realtor.com Not Really Boycotting Hannity

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Sean Hannity.
Sean Hannity. Credit: FoxNews

Fox News is dealing with yet another kerfuffle with advertisers – this time over Sean Hannity's coverage of of Republican Senate candidate Roy Moore, who allegedly had a sexual encounter with a 14-year-old when he was in his 30s. But it will likely all be short lived, with at least one marketer now backpeddling.

Hannity urged his viewers not to rush to judgment and presume Moore is guilty. At the urging of the watchdog group, Media Matters, several advertisers, including Keurig and Realtor.com, made statements on social media on Sunday that they would pull their ads from Hannity's program.

But it seems Realtor.com is already backtracking. According to a person familiar with the situation, the company intends to continue advertising on both Hannity and other Fox News shows.

On Sunday, Realtor.com had posted on Twitter: "Thanks for bringing this to our attention. We are adjusting our media buy to no longer include this show placement."

The tweet was posted in error, the person familiar with the situation said, adding that some staff didn't realize the company has a policy of not engaging in boycotts.

Senior management at Realtor.com became aware of the tweet after it was live. As of Monday morning the tweet appears to have been deleted, and a statement about the company's advertising policy has appeared on its website.

"We advertise on dozens of television networks and hundreds of shows quarterly as a way to introduce realtor.com to the widest audience possible," the statement says. "We will continue to place ads across a broad range of networks, including Fox News and its top shows."

As Keurig has found, ad boycotts are tricky business.

After the coffee machine maker said on Sunday it has removed it ads from Hannity, some Fox News viewers took to smashing their coffee brewing machines in protest and posting the act on social media.

A New Jersey Marines veteran tweeted a video of him smashing his Keurig with a hammer, using the hashtags #BoycottKeurig and #IStandWithHannity.

A Keurig spokesperson did not immediately return request to comment.

Fox News has had its fair share of ad boycotts in recent months, most notably back in April when more than 60 advertisers pulled out of Bill O'Reilly's program amid sexual assault allegations. The exodus ultimately led to O'Reilly being removed from the network.

But it's certainly unlikely that this boycott will escalate anywhere close to that level. Industry watchdog Media Matters has been calling for marketers to pull out of Hannity's 9 p.m. program for months, with modest results at best.

In May, a handful of advertisers pulled out of Hannity's show amid his coverage of what have been considered conspiracy theories surrounding the death of a Democratic National Committee staffer. Cars.com, Peloton, mattress retailer Leesa Sleep and Casper were among the advertisers who shifted their marketing dollars out of the show at the time.

Then in September, Cadillac pulled out of Hannity in response to commentary surrounding the violence at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville, Va.

Marketers have become increasingly cautious about associating their messaging with any political rhetoric. But pulling out of content that appears to favor one side over the other can send just as big of a message as deciding to remain in polarizing content.

And as TV ratings continue to dwindle, Fox News continues to be one of the few places pulling large live audiences on a nightly basis. For his part, Hannity averages 3.2 million viewers on any given night in October, according to Nielsen. In comparison, MSNBC's Rachel Maddow pulled in about 2.5 million.

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