By DAVID BAUDER
AP Media Writer
NEW YORK (AP) — Fox News Channel host Laura Ingraham is expected back at work on Monday following a backlash by advertisers upset over her tweet mocking a Parkland, Florida, school shooting survivor. Her one-week vacation served as a cooling-off period. The number of companies saying they would not advertise on her show, at 19, according to a count by Media Matters for America, slowed to a trickle while she was away. Ingraham also picked up a strong statement of support from her boss and backing from an unexpected source in liberal talk show host Bill Maher late on Friday.
Ingraham has apologized for a tweet in which she said 17-year-old high school student David Hogg whined about being rejected by some colleges. Hogg has said it’s “time to love thy neighbor, not mudsling at children.” Their spat became a symbol of a debate over how minors active in national gun safety talks should be treated by political opponents. Another student, Emma Gonzalez, was falsely depicted in a doctored photo tearing up the Constitution. Hogg has urged companies to reconsider their relationships with Ingraham, a veteran pundit whose Fox show has aired only for a few months.
Ingraham also was criticized in February for saying Cleveland Cavaliers basketball star LeBron James should “shut up and dribble” instead of talking politics. She has said that was a reference to her 2003 book, “Shut Up & Sing,” in which she criticized performers who venture into politics. James, a three-time NBA champion, has vowed to keep talking. Vacations under fire can be an ominous sign. Another Fox prime-time host, Bill O’Reilly, went on vacation when advertisers abandoned him following reports about sexual misconduct complaints against him; he never returned. An advertiser boycott helped cost O’Reilly his job at near-lightning speed.
Former Fox personality Glenn Beck fell victim to an advertiser abandonment that was much more gradual. However, attempts to launch boycotts against Sean Hannity have largely failed, and he remains Fox’s top-rated personality. Earlier this week, Fox News co-president Jack Abernethy said that “we cannot and will not allow voices to be censored by agenda driven intimidation efforts” and promised Ingraham will be back. Ingraham has not addressed the controversy on her show, which airs at 10 p.m. ET.
Meanwhile, HBO’s Bill Maher said on his show that even though Ingraham has been “a deliberately terrible person, saying horrible things,” the young gun safety advocates have to expect criticism if they are entering the public arena. He said they shouldn’t target advertisers. Hogg “complains about bullying,” Maher said. “That’s bullying. I have been the victim of a boycott of sponsors. I lost a job once. It is wrong.” One of Maher’s guests, former New York Gov. Elliot Spitzer, a Democrat who resigned in 2008 amid revelations he had sex with prostitutes, said the First Amendment gives people the right to organize boycotts. Maher called it an “end run” around the First Amendment.