Liberal group urges advertisers to boycott Fox's Hannity

NEW YORK (AP) - A liberal advocacy group that targeted Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly for advertiser boycotts in the past now has its sights set on Fox News Channel's Sean Hannity.

Media Matters for America said Friday it will begin asking Hannity's advertisers to shun him and will ask thousands of its members to also contact companies. The group is setting up a website and plans to hire a plane to carry an anti-Hannity banner in the New York area.

His Fox show "really has moved beyond just being a conservative viewpoint to state-aligned disinformation and propaganda," said Angelo Carusone, Media Matters president. "If we don't do it now, Hannity will only get worse."

Fox had no immediate comment on the effort Friday. Hannity, a survivor in a tumultuous year at Fox and President Donald Trump's most prominent media supporter, called one similar effort against him a "kill shot" designed to get him fired.

In the spring, Media Matters published a list of Hannity's advertisers and while it stopped short of advocating a boycott, groups like the Democratic Coalition Against Trump did. Only a handful of advertisers responded. Conservatives launched a campaign against MSNBC's Rachel Maddow, which met with a similar lack of success.

Hannity's opponents were energized by a lawsuit filed this week alleging Fox fabricated quotes to back up a story suggesting a Democratic National Committee staff member killed last summer may have been involved in a leak of WikiLeaks documents. Fox retracted the story in May. Hannity was a proponent of the theory, although he didn't mention it when it came back in the news this week.

Hannity's suggestion this week that special counsel Robert Mueller may have broken laws regarding conflicts of interest, and the frequent appearance of Trump's lawyer on his program, proved the tipping point in launching the new effort, Carusone said.

"Ultimately, we were forced into this position," he said.

With the initial effort against him in the spring, Hannity told the Huffington Post that "nobody tells me what to say on my show. They never have and they never will."

"There's nothing that I did, nothing that I said, except they don't like my positions politically," he said. "They'll try to ratchet up the intensity of their rationale. It does not justify an attempt to get me fired. And that's what this is. This is a kill shot."

Beck's Fox News Channel show was slowly choked by advertiser defections. The campaign against O'Reilly moved swiftly before his ouster in April, but that was primarily due to publicity about harassment charges against him, rather than his political viewpoint.

Hannity has no such personal scandal attached to him, so even Carusone acknowledges that he's got his work cut out for him.

"It's going to be a much bigger lift," he said. "It's going to take more time and research."

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