Are TV ad boycotts the right way to protest?

Are ad boycotts the right answer?
Are ad boycotts the right answer?

More businesses seem willing to yank their advertising dollars from platforms that are involved in controversies.

In the latest example, Laura Ingraham lost the support of some advertisers this week after she mockingly tweeted at David Hogg over college rejections. Hogg is a survivor of the Parkland school shooting who has helped lead a surge of gun control activism. He responded by calling on companies to pull their spots from her prime-time show.

On CNN's "Reliable Sources" Sunday, host Brian Stelter posed the question: "Are ad boycotts the right answer?"

"I'm personally pretty wary of this. I think it's dangerous," Stelter said. "My view is, let's not shut down anyone's right to speak, let's meet their comments with more speech."

But Anthony Atamanuik, who hosts the satirical program "The President Show" on Comedy Central, argued that money and speech can be one in the same.

"Part of speech is, in a capitalist society, hitting people in the pocket book," he said. "This was a personal attack from the position that [Ingraham] has. You have to meet that with something just as strong."

Related: Ingraham to take week-long break amid controversy

"Meeting speech with speech is fine, but part of speech in our culture is money," he added.

David Zurawick, a media critic at The Baltimore Sun, agreed. He called Hogg's push for an advertiser boycott "incredibly media savvy."

"In the world of commercial media, nothing is more powerful than an advertiser boycott. The first commandment is 'Thou shalt not lose thy advertisers,'" he said.

He added that that Ingraham, given her position as a host on a national network, should have expected the "fiercest kind of pushback" for going after the high school shooting survivor.

Zurawick argued the survivors have a "moral high ground" because of the tragedy they endured.

Atamanuik added, "I think the most amazing thing, to me, is that these young kids have more maturity and purpose than most of the folks who are trying to cover the story, especially at Fox."

Zurawick also pointed out the parallels between Ingraham's vacation from her show and the leave taken by Bill O'Reilly, the former Fox News host, just before he left the network amid sexual harassment allegations last April. O'Reilly has denied all the allegations against him.

Related: Ingraham's apology to David Hogg has not stemmed advertiser exodus

Stelter asked if it's fair to compare Ingraham's tweet with the scandal stirred up by the stunning accusations against O'Reilly.

But Zurawick dismissed the idea that Ingraham's jab at Hogg was just a tweet.

"I think if you tweet and you work in the mainstream media, you might as well publish it on the front page of The New York Times," Zurawick responded.

Hogg and other student activists that survived the shooting in Parkland, Florida also led the charge for corporate boycotts of the National Rifle Association.

The students wielded their social media followings to pressure companies to sever ties with the nation's most powerful gun lobby. More than a dozen brands said they would no longer offer special perks or discounts to NRA members.


CNNMoney Sponsors