How an ill-advised tweet became a nightmare for a Fox News show

Melody Hahm
Senior Writer

A little over a month ago, David Hogg was like any other high school senior anxiously awaiting college acceptance letters. Then, on Feb. 14, he witnessed the deaths of 17 of his classmates at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. Since then, he has graced the cover of Time Magazine, organized a march attended by hundreds of thousands of individuals demanding gun reform and gained a massive following of 667,000 on Twitter.

Despite becoming a household name pretty much overnight, Hogg is still a 17-year-old who plans to attend college. According to an interview with TMZ on Tuesday, Hogg received rejection letters from the four University of California campuses where he submitted applications —UCLA, UCSD, UCSB and UC Irvine. He has a 4.2 GPA and an SAT score of 1270.

The following day, Laura Ingraham, host of Fox News’ evening program, “The Ingraham Angle,” retweeted a piece from the conservative news site, The Daily Wire, adding her own commentary — “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.)”

The power of Twitter

Hogg, fully aware of how powerful he has become, has been encouraging his followers to tweet at brands that advertise on the show. And since Ingraham’s initial tweet, at least 16 companies have pulled their ads. Rachael Ray’s Nutrish was the first brand to sever ties. StitchFix (SFIX), Expedia (EXPE), TripAdvisor (TRIP), Wayfair (W), Johnson & Johnson (JNJ), Nestlé USA (NESN), Hulu, Office Depot (ODP), The Atlantis, Paradise Resort, Honda (HMC), Liberty Mutual, Progressive insurance (PGR), Jenny Craig and the global investment group Principal followed suit. 

On Thursday, after advertisers had already begun to distance themselves from the show, Ingraham issued an apology, retracting her original attack on Hogg: “Any student should be proud of a 4.2 GPA —incl. @DavidHogg111.  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.”

‘Responsibility to share both sides of a story’

Hogg said he does not accept her apology. “She’s only apologizing after a third of her advertisers pulled out, and I think it’s really disgusting that she basically tried promoting her show after ‘apologizing’ to me. I think it’s wrong and if she really wants to do something, she can cover things like inner city violence and the real issues that we have in America. I know she’s a talk show host, but she also has a responsibility to show both sides of a story,” he said during an interview on CNN’s New Day.

Florida school massacre survivor David Hogg rejects Laura Ingraham’s apology and has started a boycott.

“Atlantis does not support or agree with the recent comments made by television broadcaster Laura Ingraham. Although we are an organization that believes in freedom of expression, we do not condone discrimination, bullying, mockery or harmful behavior of any kind. As a result of these events, we have decided to remove all brand advertising tied to the program,” an official Atlantis spokesperson told Yahoo Finance.

Prior to the era of social media, brands would have had to release official statements on their websites and wouldn’t necessarily be subject to immediate criticism. That’s no longer the case with Twitter. Now, critical decisions made by companies can be discovered via one-off responses to everyday users.

StitchFix responded to a user who threatened to stop buying clothes from the monthly subscription program, saying “We appreciate our clients’ feedback on this, and we can confirm we’re no longer advertising on Laura’s show.”

Progressive watchdog Media Matters compiled a list of Ingraham’s 100+ sponsors, including Bayer, NutriSystem, Choice Hotels, Arby’s, Cars.com, DirecTV, Duracell, Esurance, Honda, IBM, and Kayak, to name just a few.

Are boycotts effective? It depends

“I think it’s great that corporate America is standing with me and the rest of my friends because when you come against any one of us, whether it be me or anybody else, you’re coming against all of us,” Hogg told CNN. “I think it’s important that we stand together as both corporate and civic America to take action against these people and show them that they cannot push us around, especially when all we’re trying to do here is save lives.”

“The issue needs to be gun violence in America, but what she’s trying to do is distract from that and I hate it,” he added.

This is not the first time Ingraham has been in hot water. Just last month, she faced significant pushback and criticism after she publicly said that Lebron James should stay out of politics and “shut up and dribble.”

Ingraham announced on her show Friday night that she would be taking a week off, with plans to resume on April 9.

The efficacy of boycotts against Fox News has had mixed results. While this movement is akin to the demise and ultimate cancellation of The O’Reilly Report last April, Bill O’Reilly had much graver problems than a single controversy. Nearly 60 companies withdrew their advertisements following a New York Times report on five sexual harassment settlements by O’Reilly and Fox News. While much of the momentum was on social media, it was much harder for the company to defend his egregious behavior than stand by an anchor for an offensive tweet.

Ingraham is likely hoping this movement would resemble the fleeting backlash against her colleague, Sean Hannity. Hannity endorsed Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, who reportedly made several sexual advances toward underage girls. Many advertisers, including Keurig, Realtor.com and Volvo deleted tweets that stated they would be pulling ads.

As The Washington Post aptly pointed out, “At any given time, someone is probably trying to boycott a Fox News show for something.”

This is an ongoing story and will be updated as sponsors continue to pull their ads from the show.

Melody Hahm is a senior writer at Yahoo Finance, covering entrepreneurship, technology and real estate. Follow her on Twitter @melodyhahm.

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