- The Washington Times - Saturday, May 27, 2017

USAA apparently plans to drop its television ads from liberal network MSNBC after an outcry over its decision last week to stop advertising on conservative Sean Hannity’s program on the Fox News Channel.

In response to a query from The Washington Times about whether USAA planned to withdraw its ads on MSNBC opinion shows after accusations of a double standard, USAA spokesman Roger Wildermuth said in a statement that the company would pull its ads on all opinion shows regardless of network, describing its failure to do so previously as an oversight.

“There was an error which led to our ads running during ‘Hannity,’ and as soon as that was discovered, the error was corrected. Since then, we have done an additional review and removed ads from opinion-based news programs on other channels as well,” he said.

“We will continually review our ad placements to ensure we are consistent with our policy,” Mr. Wildermuth said.

The military financial services company said last week that “advertising on opinion shows is not in accordance with our policy” after a backlash over its decision to withdraw its ads from the “Hannity” show, which followed a campaign against the Fox News host led by left-wing Media Matters for America.

Two days later, however, the conservative Media Research Center pointed out that USAA had failed to pull its ads on shows hosted by liberal MSNBC commentators Rachel Maddow, Lawrence O’Donnell and Chris Matthews.

“Do they somehow think ‘Hardball’ is not an ‘opinion show’?” asked Tim Graham, MRC’s director of media analysis, on NewsBusters.

Media Matters for America posted Tuesday a list of 150 companies that have run ads on “Hannity,” with an update saying that nine have announced that will no longer advertise on the show, including USAA, which offers insurance and other services to active and retired military.

Mr. Graham said that USAA’s brand “is all about support for veterans … and they’re turning on Sean Hannity?”

“For years, Hannity has donated his time and his celebrity to promoting ‘Freedom Concerts’ to raise money for the Freedom Alliance, which gives scholarships to the children of slain soldiers,” said Mr. Graham. “Is that really the way the USAA demonstrates its support for veterans?”

Scott Grumpman commented on the USAA Facebook page that “you obviously don’t know your customer base.”

The conservative watchdog group 2ndVote reported Friday that USAA has thrown its support behind liberal organizations in the past.

“Our research shows that USAA has partnered with liberal LGBT advocacy organizations and even scored 100 on the Human Rights Campaign’s Corporate Equality Index,” said 2ndVote. “USAA has also donated to Planned Parenthood supporters Susan G. Komen and United Way.”

Since dumping “Hannity,” USAA has been deluged with criticism on social media and its own website’s “member community” page, with some clients urging the company to reconsider and others threatening to pull their business.

“I am disgusted with your unpatriotic decision,” said one commenter on Memorial Day Weekend, while another blasted the company for “succumbing to outside pressure from politically correct factions.”

“I have been a long time customer, but after you giving in to the left and obviously not standing for the same values as the veterans you claim to support, I will be searching for a new insurance company,” said a Saturday post entitled “USAA Selling Out.”

Other clients said they backed USAA’s move, including one who stated, “I will not support any company that supports Sean Hannity.”

Media Matters, a group that has received funding from liberal billionaire George Soros, described Mr. Hannity as “a professional propagandist for President Donald Trump, as well as a bigot, a sexist, and a conspiracy theorist.”

Mr. Hannity responded on Twitter by saying that Media Matters “is targeting all of my advertisers to try and get me fired.”

The Hannity campaign comes after Media Matters posted on April 4 a list of companies advertising with former Fox News host Bill O’Reilly, whose contract was terminated April 19 amid a sexual harassment scandal.

More than 50 advertisers left Mr. O’Reilly’s show before his departure, which hasn’t happened with Mr. Hannity, as Media Matters President Angelo Carusone acknowledged in a Saturday interview on CNN.

“No, advertisers are not leaving Sean Hannity’s program at the speed at which they were leaving [Mr. O’Reilly’s], that’s just the case,” said Mr. Carusone. “That’s good [that] there actually isn’t a massive campaign here. It’s literally just asking the question. All we have done is hold up a mirror. However, it is true, advertisers are leaving Sean Hannity’s program.”

Among the advertisers who have pulled ads from “Hannity” are Crown Plaza Hotels and Cars.com.

⦁ Douglas Ernst contributed to this article.

• Valerie Richardson can be reached at vrichardson@washingtontimes.com.

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