By James E. Lukaszewski, ABC, Fellow IABC; APR, Fellow PRSA; BEPS Emeritus
Well, we have a whole bunch of companies, laudably, it would appear, withdrawing their advertising from the Fox News O’Reilly Factor program which is currently experiencing a substantial scandal involving more sexual harassment charges against the show’s star, Bill O’Reilly. Fox News’ parent company has already paid five accusers $13 million to settle these grievances before any charges or allegations could be filed.
These advertisers pulling their ads are now getting and giving themselves lots of credit, but for what? The companies making the O’Reilly Factor withdrawal gestures are standing up, beating their chests and making very fine public statements.
One commentator has described these actions as “Mercantile Activism.” This new slogan is really a self-forgiving euphemism for the all too frequent and ethically questionable business decisions that appear to be good, even high minded, but for whom?
Advertisers can put their money anywhere they want. But by taking or getting credit for “repurposing” their O’Reilly Factor ad money within 21st Century Fox, the parent company – this noble gesture is a FAKE. Wherever the money goes inside 21st Century Fox, they have to know that the crimes against women, as alleged in the Bill O’Reilly matter, continue. Rather than an act of responsible corporate leadership, the whole process smells, and Fox News never learns.
The pressure on these fake, good companies needs to be increased to pull their advertising completely out of 21st Century Fox, if the advertisers are seriously making an ethical statement. Otherwise, their fake activism needs to be exposed.
In any event, now these fake, good companies owe their customers, shareholders and employees a public explanation for this bizarre, ethically questionable decision that ultimately supports the Roger Ailes/Bill O’Reilly culture that persists at what some people are now calling Foxy News. Their motto is, “We don’t hire for talent, we hire for… well you know.”
21st Century Fox is encouraging this sleight of ethics behavior. They can claim that they are simply bowing to their customers’ demands (LOL). The difference is that Bill O’Reilly’s behavior is a well-known cancer within this large organization.
Once a cancer has been identified, very aggressive countermeasures need to be taken, which first involve surgery to remove the disease, followed by very tough, toxic drug therapy to counter the possible disease recurrence. 21st Century Fox need to essentially have two parallel ethics “operations” in this case.
First, surgery needs to occur to conclusively and deeply remove the Bill O’Reilly problem. Secondly, this is a company that needs a dose of tough, nearly toxic, ethical therapy to strengthen its moral compass. Whatever the rationalization 21st Century Fox gives, the lateral arabesque of advertiser money by this corporation simply does not pass the straight-face test.
Maybe Fortune magazine needs to create a brand-new list, “The Fortune 400 Fake Good Companies List.” They already have about three dozen solid candidates and the list seems to be growing…