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Fox News host Laura Ingraham taking break amid boycott

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Laura Ingraham is taking a week off amid a brewing advertiser boycott over her comments about Parkland school shooting survivor David Hogg.

I’ll be off next week for Easter break with my kids,” Ingraham said on-air Friday. “But fear not, we’ve got a great lineup of guest hosts to fill in for me.”

The Fox News indicated the vacation was preplanned, but Ingraham steps away as more than a dozen companies have dropped ads from Ingraham’s show this week after she sent out a tweet mocking Hogg’s rejection from a few colleges.

Ingraham’s Easter break has echoes of the abrupt vacation former Fox personality Bill O’Reilly took in April 2017 when he faced down a mounting advertiser boycott in the wake of a sexual harassment scandal. He was fired during that period.

Ingraham’s case is vastly different, but the advertiser boycott escalated nearly as fast. Companies that have pulled ads include Nutrish, Jenny Craig, Office Depot, Expedia, Trip Advisor, Wayfair, StitchFix, Liberty Mutual, Principal, Nestle, and Johnson & Johnson. Hulu, the streaming service has also dropped its ads, though, as NPR’s David Folkenflik pointed out, Fox News’ parent company, 21st Century Fox, owns a 30 percent stake in Hulu.

Some companies quietly pulled ads, while others directly called attention to the controversy. Wayfair, the online home-goods store, said in a statement the host’s comments were “not consistent with our values.” A spokesperson for TripAdvisor told CNBC that “statements focused on a high school student, cross the line of decency. As such, we have made a decision to stop advertising on that program.”

Ingraham first came under fire after she mocked Hogg — a Parkland shooting survivor who’s become one the school’s most outspoken activists — for failing to get accepted to his college choices with his 4.1 GPA. (He actually has a 4.2 GPA.) The story, picked up by right-wing media outlets, originated with a TMZ video.

Hogg, in response to the attack, called for advertisers to boycott the show, tweeting out a list of companies that run ads on her nightly program “The Ingraham Angle.”

Ingraham apologized Thursday for her comments. “On reflection, in the spirit of Holy Week, I apologize for any upset or hurt my tweet caused him or any of the brace victims of Parkland,” she wrote.

But the damage had been done. By Thursday several companies had pulled their ads.

Hogg rebuffed Ingraham’s apology. “She only apologized after we went after her advertisers,” he told the New York Times on Thursday. “It kind of speaks for itself.” After Ingraham announced her vacation, Hogg tweeted “have some healthy reflections this Holy Week.”

But Ingraham has her defenders. Supporters launched an #IStandWithLaura campaign to boycott the boycotters.

That there’s a backlash to the backlash isn’t a surprise — gun reform remains a politically polarizing issue, and the renewed debate and vocal activism after the Parkland shooting has only exacerbated those divisions. Advertiser boycotts have been a potent and attention-grabbing tool in channelling political pressure, and Fox News personalities have been frequent targets.

For example,back in November a few advertisers — including Keurig, makers of the coffee pod machines — boycotted Fox personality Sean Hannity over his defense of Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who was accused of pursuing sexual relationships with teens when he was in his 30s. Hannity’s fans fired back with a protest of their own, smashing Keurig coffee machines in support of the host.

The Hannity boycotts fizzled and his show survived. Angelo Carusone, the president of Media Matters for America, told The Hollywood Reporter that the quality and rate of ad buys declined for his program — though Fox News disputed this account and said advertisers returned.

But, for now, the pressure on Ingraham hasn’t abated. Right-wing pundits, including Fox News, have tended to downplay or criticize the renewed push for gun reform, but as Vox’s German Lopez pointed out, some opponents, such as Ingraham, have taken to attacking the teenage survivors themselves. That stands out both because these activists are in high school and they survived a school shooting only a month ago.

Ingraham, in going after Hogg personally, made herself a target for defenders of the movement and its student leaders. Hogg and others have responded by capitalizing on their social media clout and putting public pressure on advertisers — a tool that proved successful in ushering O’Reilly off the air last year, and Glenn Beck in 2011.

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