Some of the nation's blue chip companies – many that rely on African American consumers for a significant portion of their profits – until recently advertised on right-winger Glenn Beck's incendiary program on Fox TV. They include: Procter & Gamble, Kraft Food, ConAgra (maker of Healthy Choice foods), Clorox, UPS, the U.S. Postal Service, Honda, General Electric, Travelocity, State Farm Insurance, Geico, Farmer's Insurance, Pfizer, Wal-Mart, Best Buy, Office Depot, RadioShack, Sprint, CVS, Red Lobster, Nestle, Progressive Insurance and pharmaceutical companies Roche and Sanofi-Aventis (maker of Plavix).
Beck touched off a firestorm when he labeled President Obama "a racist" who has "deep-seated hatred for White people." ColorOfChange.org, an Internet-oriented Black grass roots advocacy group, quickly organized a petition drive urging advertisers to stop sponsoring his show.
One by one, more than 30 sponsors, some claiming there had been a "miscommunication" about their ever wanting to advertise on Beck's program, requested that their spots be aired elsewhere on the Fox network.
While this was a partial victory for ColorOfChange.org, it did not address the larger issue of Fox's overall hostility toward progressives and people of color. As Marketwatch.com noted, "For its part, Fox News said through a spokeswoman that while some advertisers have 'removed their spots from Beck,' they have just shifted to 'other programs on the network, so there has been no revenue lost."
Hear that? No revenue lost. When commercial sponsors or Fox experience lost revenue, that's when we'll get the change we've been waiting for. Meanwhile, Beck supporters have organized defendglenn.com to pressure advertisers to stay with the controversial host.
Interestingly, many of the major companies that advertised on Beck's radio and TV shows until it became a public liability, specifically told ABC radio that they didn't want any of their ads airing on liberal Air America programs. MediaMatters.org, the watchdog group, obtained an internal memo in 2006 that named the companies, including Wal-Mart, Office Depot, General Electric, Farmers Insurance, Nestle, Red Lobster, State Farm, Travelocity, the U.S. Postal Service and Wyeth Pharmaceuticals.
Other companies that advertised on the television and radio programs of conservatives Rush Limbaugh and Lou Dobbs (who likes to pretend he's an independent) while prohibiting ads from running on Air America were: JC Penney, Frito-Lay, Home Depot, Visa, the American Heart Association, the U.S. Navy, Bayer and Allstate.
Allstate and Red Lobster said, contrary to the memo, they never requested that their commercials not appear on Air America.
Beck's attack on Obama was not an isolated one. Earlier, he said Obama's congressional priorities were driven by his support of reparations and the desire to "settle old racial scores." He said the president was moving the U.S. "into a system of fascism" and called Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor "a racist."
Rush Limbaugh, apparently reading from the same playbook, alleged Obama "is the greatest living example of a reverse racist." He claimed, "Obama's entire economic program is reparations." And he said, "Of course, I want Obama to fail." He added, "We are being told that we have to hope he succeeds, that we have to bend over, grab the ankles…because his father was Black."
CNN's Lou Dobbs claims that the birth certificate provided by Obama is not "the real document." He incredulously asserted, "A certificate of live birth is not a birth certificate."
What are we to think of companies that support loud mouths that make such outlandish charges? I have two suggestions for the boycott organizers. First, continue to monitor companies that remain sponsors on Glenn Beck's radio and TV programs. I'll print the list of all of the companies in this space once you've completed the research.
My second recommendation is that we compile a list of companies that sponsor the radio and TV programs of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Lou Dobbs. Cross check the names of those firms with our major Black radio stations. I know we can't list everyone, but let's start with radio programs hosted by Joe Madison, Bev Smith, Tom Joyner, Steve Harvey, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton, Michael Eric Dyson, Gary Byrd in New York and Cliff Kelley in Chicago. Let's use those as starters; we can expand the list later.
Once the list of major sponsors has been compiled, the National Newspaper Publishers Association (NNPA) should compare that list against its national advertisers and publicize that information.
Simultaneously, we should develop a list of companies that are supportive of the Black Press and make their names public as well. Working with these two lists, we will be able to identify those companies that support us and those that support our ardent foes. The list should be compiled every year.
The next step is a natural one: We shouldn't support companies that don't support us. According to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia, the annual buying power of African Americans will grow from $318 million in 1990 to $1.2 trillion in 2013. We shouldn't spend one cent with companies that support the likes of Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh and Lou Dobbs while neglecting to support the Black Press.
George E. Curry, former editor-in-chief of Emerge magazine and the NNPA News Service, is a keynote speaker, moderator, and media coach. He can be reached through his Web site, www.georgecurry.com.