An Assassin Poses a Question for Fox Advertisers: "Killing People, Right or Wrong?"

Last Updated Oct 20, 2010 4:23 PM EDT

Most management teams don't have to worry about being assassinated at work by right-wing lunatics, but they do at the Tides Foundation, a liberal non-profit whose CEO is now begging corporate America to persuade News Corp.'s (NWS) Fox News Channel that Glenn Beck's extreme rhetoric could end up getting someone killed.

Tides CEO Drummond Pike asked advertisers to pull their budgets from Fox in an open letter that describes how Byron Williams, one of Beck's viewers, was arrested while driving to Tides HQ carrying numerous guns and body armor, intent on killing everyone in the office. He wanted to do the same thing at the ACLU, Oakland police spokesperson Jeff Thomason said:

While Thomason did not have details on the motive behind William's plan, he said it appeared he was heading to those two organizations "with the full purpose of killing people."

"This was his plan. This is what he stated to us," said Thomason. "And we're just lucky that the CHP stopped him when they did, or he could have killed people."

You've probably never heard of Tides. It's a well-funded grant-giving organization supported by advertisers such as Levi Strauss & Co. and Patagonia, the outdoors apparel company. Tides distributed $101 million in grants last year, mostly to feel-good causes such as "The Story of Stuff," an online teaching curriculum about the environmental cost of garbage, and victims of Hurricane Katrina.

Williams, now in jail, has since confessed that Beck inspired him. Yet Beck has not distanced himself from Williams, Pike wrote:

In total, prior to the attempted rampage, Beck had attacked the Tides Foundation 29 times. On September 28th, more than a month after the shooting, Beck reiterated his focus on the Tides Foundation, warning, "I'm coming for you." In jailhouse interviews, the gunman confessed he views Beck as a "schoolteacher" who "blew my mind." My would-be killer admitted that Beck "give[s] you every ounce of evidence you could possibly need" to commit violence.
Beck is a self-described "Progressive Hunter" who relies on violent rhetoric. Do you really think that the millions of Americans who describe themselves as "progressive" need to be "hunted down"? If so, to what end?
You can read a lengthy, detailed account of Beck's inspiration of Williams here. The money quote is where Williams, interviewed in his jail cell, says:
I would have never started watching Fox News if it wasn't for the fact that Beck was on there. And it was the things that he did, it was the things he exposed that blew my mind.
Most large corporate advertisers have pulled their money from Beck, even though he has a large audience, after Beck described President Obama as a racist with a "deep-seated hatred for white people." The remaining advertisers are a rag-bag of house ads, Beck's own sponsors, and companies you've never heard of. Beck has remained on the air for more than a year after those remarks, and most observers -- including Pike -- agree that it's had no effect at all on Fox.

Of course, it is not the job of advertisers to teach Fox about the difference between civil discourse in a democratic society and inciting a mob to violence. But that, apparently, is where we're at: Beck's response to Williams' arrest was to continue to demonize Tides and then book himself a speaking gig with the National Assocation for Gun Rights, a gun conspiracy group that believes the NRA is an appeasement organization for softies:


The NAGR literally believes that the United Nations will somehow ban guns.

So here's your management lesson: Killing people is wrong. Inspiring killers is wrong. Not distancing yourself from killers who profess their admiration for you is wrong. And if you're an advertiser, not distancing yourself from killers who admire your business partners is also wrong.

Whether any of Fox's advertisers -- or its management -- will display any principles on the "killing people: for or against?" issue is an open question.

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