David Zurawik

Zurawik: Why the advertiser boycott of Tucker Carlson is not censorship — despite what Fox says

A boycott of Fox News host Tucker Carlson in response to him claiming that immigrants make America “poorer and dirtier” has resulted in more than a dozen advertisers withdrawing sponsorship from his show.

In standing behind its prime-time host, Fox issued a statement saying in part, “We cannot and will not allow voices like Tucker Carlson to be censored ...”


But is it censorship when an advertiser or multiple advertisers decide they don’t want their products associated with a show or host, especially one who says something as inflammatory as that statement by Carlson?

Host Brian Stelter and I took on that question Sunday on CNN’s “Reliable Sources.”


I said that it is not censorship. It’s a misuse of the word by Fox, and I feel zero sympathy for Carlson.

Why should an advertiser pay to have her or his product associated with someone who says the sort of thing Carlson did about immigrants? He’s free to say anything Fox lets him say, but as an advertiser I am not going to support it if it offends my personal sense of decency and is likely to alienate some potential customers from my product.

Carlson has constructed his TV persona on such inflammatory statements, repeatedly trying to exploit flash points of conflict in American life. He’s become a surrogate for President Donald Trump and a smirking face of privilege in his denigration of immigrants and others.

The boycott will likely get a break over over the holidays. But I do not think it is over. Advertiser boycotts against Fox hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham have come and gone with both still on the air. But such boycotts have proved fatal for former Fox hosts Glenn Beck and Bill O’Reilly.