Choudhry: From Keurigs to Congress: Inside the Sean Hannity Sideshow

Sean Hannity speaking at CPAC 2015. (Unmodified Creative Commons photo by Gage Skidmore.

Earlier this month, you may not have heard much about the U.S. Senate race in Alabama. You probably had little to no idea who the candidates were until reports from the Washington Post emerged that the Republican candidate was allegedly a pedophile. And then you probably heard that people were throwing out their Keurig machines because of this.

Here’s what happened:

On November 9, the Washington Post released a report that Roy Moore allegedly “initiated sexual contact” with a 14-year-old girl back when he was in his 30s (he is now 70). The story was well-sourced, with four women quoted by name and numerous others on background.

The day after the initial story was released, Moore went on Sean Hannity’s radio show to presumably deny the events and promote his campaign. Except, that isn’t exactly what happened.

During the interview, Moore stated that he “generally” did not date girls under 18 and that he didn’t remember dating any girl “without the permission of her mother.” He denied the claims made in the Post, but mostly he said that he “didn’t remember” a lot of the details and had no definitive answer when pressed about the nature of his relationships.

So what does this have to do with Keurig?

During the show, there seemed to be a moment where Hannity described one of the encounters Moore had with younger women as “consensual” and the whole situation was a “he-said, she-said.”

There was considerable backlash to this and then the president of Media Matters Angelo Carusone tweeted about Keurig, who runs commercials during Hannity’s Fox News TV show.

In a reply to the tweet, Keurig announced that they were pulling out their ads from Hannity’s show.

This isn’t exactly new in Fox News’ history – most recently, advertisers pulled out of The O’Reilly Factor after numerous reports revealed his history of sexual harassment and settlements, the conservative outlet then canceled the show and fired Bill O’Reilly while he was on vacation in Italy.

These protests, however, were a little more extreme than before, as exemplified by videos such as this:

Most of the videos were in support of Hannity and included hashtags such as #IstandwithHannity.

Numerous others followed suit with the hashtag #BoycottKeurig began trending. Hannity himself began sharing links of people destroying their machines in solidarity with him and offered to give away machines to those with the best videos.

It made for strange times, especially considering the fact that those supporting Hannity were joined by environmentalists who recycled their complaints over Keurig’s environmental waste issues by using #killthecup.

Eventually, after Hannity announced that he’d misspoke on his radio show and Keurig released a statement saying that the decision to stop advertising was “done outside of company protocols” and would soon resume. Hannity then called for a “cease-fire” and the whole situation shut down almost as quickly as it had begun.

Soon, more women came out with their own accusations against Moore prompting Hannity to ask Moore, through his TV show, to “remove any doubt” about the situation or “get out of this race,” before later saying that this wasn’t a decision he should make and it should be decided by the people of Alabama.

But the whole situation – of pulling ads, the backlash and the reversal – as strange as it was, should be considered carefully in today’s context.

Keurig removed their ads from Hannity’s show after Media Matters President Angelo Carusone and a growing online contingent said the coffee maker was supporting someone who was defending child molestation, which were later said to be a false accusation.

Enough advertisers pulled out of O’Reilly’s show to the point where it was forced to shut down. The only reason the same didn’t happen to Hannity was due to the wide backlash, as ridiculous as it was.

Considering the constant outcry of “fake news” and the negative attitude many have toward the media, it doesn’t seem out of the realm of possibility that something like this could happen again. Advertisers could pull out of any show on any network, off of the website for any major newspaper, or something of the like.

If certain media organizations endorse or refute a certain issue or idea (less immoral and illegal than child molestation) and then they’re forced to turn back or change their messaging in order to keep their funding, what would that mean for the future of journalism?

Sure, Hannity is an opinion host, but how quickly would a situation like this develop with an objective journalist, and what would be the outcome of that?

In any case, as of right now, Hannity is still on the air, Keurig is still selling their machines, and Moore is still in the race. So far, no one seems to be suffering any major consequences, but that could easily change.

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