TD Amer­i­trade says ‘Han­nity’ boy­cott was drummed up by left

The Washington Times Daily - - POLITICS - BY VA­LERIE RICHARD­SON

It was al­ways a head-scratcher: Why would TD Amer­i­trade, a com­pany founded by prom­i­nent Repub­li­can donor Joe Rick­etts, throw in with Ge­orge Soros­backed forces in­tent on driv­ing “Han­nity” off the air?

Now TD Amer­i­trade has an ex­pla­na­tion: It never hap­pened, de­spite the left’s claims to the con­trary.

The dis­count bro­ker­age firm’s ads are no longer run­ning on the Fox News show hosted by con­ser­va­tive pun­dit Sean Han­nity, but TD Amer­i­trade spokes­woman Kim Hil­lyer told The Wash­ing­ton Times it had noth­ing to do with any boy­cott.

She said that last year’s me­dia buy ex­pired at roughly the same time that the anti-Han­nity cam­paign launched by the Soros­backed Me­dia Mat­ters for Amer­ica erupted in late May.

“TD Amer­i­trade did not drop or stop ad­ver­tis­ing on Sean Han­nity’s pro­gram,” Ms. Hil­lyer said in an email. “We have not been ap­proached by the coali­tion, or any other group re­gard­ing our ad­ver­tis­ing poli­cies, nor have we joined any boy­cotts re­lated to the pro­gram.”

In May, how­ever, Me­dia Mat­ters added TD Amer­i­trade to its run­down of advertisers that no longer spon­sor “Han­nity,” while the Demo­cratic Coali­tion Against Trump has listed the com­pany since June as one of the com­pa­nies that has “pulled their ads from Han­nity’s show thanks to your ef­forts.”

The idea has been to force the top-rated Fox News host off the air by de­plet­ing his ad rev­enue, al­though so far only about a dozen of the 150 com­pa­nies iden­ti­fied as “Han­nity” spon­sors have agreed to pull their ads, based on the list­ings.

Ms. Hil­lyer said she hoped to “clar­ify mis­in­for­ma­tion” about TD Amer­i­trade’s sit­u­a­tion.

“We had a me­dia buy with the pro­gram that we pur­chased a year ago (we do the vast ma­jor­ity of our me­dia buy­ing once a year),” Ms. Hil­lyer said. “All ads as­so­ci­ated with that buy ran as sched­uled, and the con­clu­sion of the buy just hap­pened to co­in­cide with the launch of the cur­rent con­tro­versy. That’s not some­thing you can pre­dict when you buy time months in ad­vance.”

She added that, “We don’t have any other ads sched­uled to run at this time, and plan­ning for 2018 is cur­rently un­der­way, so I don’t have any up­dates as to what we’ll do re­gard­ing that spe­cific pro­gram in the fu­ture.”

Demo­cratic Coali­tion ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor Nate Lerner re­sponded by say­ing the group would re­move TD Amer­i­trade from the list of firms on its Fire Han­nity web­site iden­ti­fied as those boy­cotting the show.

“We do our best to keep it as ac­cu­rate as pos­si­ble, but it’s not al­ways clear if a com­pany stopped ad­ver­tis­ing due to the boy­cott ef­forts or sim­ply be­cause their ad buy ended,” said Mr. Lerner in an email.

Me­dia Mat­ters Pres­i­dent An­gelo Caru­sone wasn’t so sure. He said he wanted to check to see if the TD Amer­i­trade ads dis­ap­peared from “Han­nity” be­fore other Fox News pro­grams.

“One part that we can val­i­date is they are not a cur­rent ad­ver­tiser of Sean Han­nity,” said Mr. Caru­sone. “And the fact that they have no plans and didn’t in­di­cate that they pur­chased dur­ing [up­front ad sales] any of their 2018 ads is also re­veal­ing, just from a busi­ness per­spec­tive.”

Shortly there­after, Me­dia Mat­ters up­dated its list of “Han­nity” advertisers. The list­ing no longer in­cludes TD Amer­i­trade or other com­pa­nies iden­ti­fied as those that have stopped run­ning ads.

Me­dia Mat­ters touched off the anti-Han­nity blitz with a May 23 post head­lined, “These are Sean Han­nity’s advertisers,” de­scrib­ing the host as a “pro­fes­sional pro­pa­gan­dist for Pres­i­dent Don­ald Trump.”

Sev­eral com­pa­nies, in­clud­ing Cars.com, USAA and Ring, re­acted by say­ing they would pull their “Han­nity” spon­sor­ships, al­though USAA later re­versed its de­ci­sion after a back­lash from its clien­tele, which mostly con­sists of ac­tive and re­tired mil­i­tary mem­bers.

After hit­ting a lull, Me­dia Mat­ters re­newed its anti-Han­nity cam­paign Fri­day by up­dat­ing its advertisers’ list and launch­ing a pe­ti­tion drive called “Stop Han­nity,” declar­ing that, “If Fox won’t fire Han­nity, then advertisers should run as fast as they can.”

Like­wise, the Demo­cratic Coali­tion has rein­vig­o­rated its push against the top-rated Fox an­chor with its #FireHan­nity drive, which has drawn about 100,000 hits, said Mr. Lerner.

TD Amer­i­trade had seemed like an un­likely can­di­date for the boy­cott ef­fort given the Rick­etts fam­ily’s well-known sup­port for con­ser­va­tive can­di­dates and causes.

Mr. Rick­etts, who re­tired from the com­pany in 2011, has long backed Repub­li­can can­di­dates, as has his son, Todd Rick­etts, who serves on TD Amer­i­trade’s board. An­other son, Pete Rick­etts, is the Repub­li­can gov­er­nor of Ne­braska.

TD Amer­i­trade is no longer pri­vately held after go­ing pub­lic in 1997, but the Rick­ettses are the largest in­di­vid­ual share­hold­ers, ac­cord­ing to 2017 se­cu­ri­ties fil­ings.

Mr. Trump and Joe Rick­etts haven’t al­ways been on the same page — the top GOP donor and his wife Mar­lene ini­tially backed the con­ser­va­tive anti-Trump Our Prin­ci­ples PAC — but they ap­peared to mend fences after the real es­tate ty­coon won the GOP pres­i­den­tial nom­i­na­tion.

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