News :: National

Gay Equality Groups Demand Orbitz Drop Fox Ads

by Kilian Melloy
Monday May 23, 2011
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GLBT equality groups have called for Orbitz, an online company that cultivates gay travelers as customers, to pull its advertising from Fox, saying that prominent Fox commentators are anti-gay, The Advocate reported on May 16.

Courage Campaign, Equality Matters, The Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation, and Media Matters have jointly sent a letter to the head of the company, Barney Hartford calling for the ads to be yanked. A May 20 press release from the Courage Campaign said that over 35,000 people had also signed the letter.

The release said that the anti-gay positions and claims of several Fox personalities sparked the protest.

"Giving Mike Huckabee his own show despite Huckabee’s history of comparing homosexuality to drug abuse, incest, pedophilia, and necrophilia" was one example cited by the release. "Huckabee has repeatedly used his Fox platform to campaign against gay marriage, and he has suggested that marriage equality poses a threat to stable society," the release said.

"Bill O’ Reilly repeatedly using his popular prime time show to warn against the ’dangers’ of allowing gay people near children, to assert that same-sex marriage could lead to polygamy, nuptials with turtles, ducks or dolphins, and to claim that implementing a hate crimes bill could protect pedophiles" was also cited in the release.

The release also denounced Fox commentators for "Perpetuating the claim that repealing ’Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell’ would impact troop readiness and morale, despite multiple reports--including the Pentagon’s--to the contrary."

"Orbitz’s travel site, which previously was a strong supporter of and marketer to the LGBT community, has generated strong business growth for Orbitz," the media release stated.

"It’s hypocritical to cater to our community, take our money and then turn around and give it to Fox so the network can broadcast lies about LGBT people and our issues," the Courage Campaign’s Adam Bink said.

"If Orbitz wants to maintain a gay-friendly image and keep their loyal customers, they should reconsider where they are buying ads because as you can see by some of these Facebook posts, folks are very angry that their money is being used to promote hate."

"If you have a ’strict policy of tolerance and non-discrimination,’ then why advertise on a network that blatantly and regularly attacks the gay community?" said the head of the Courage Campaign, Rick Jacobs.

The release said that over 1,300 people had logged on to the Orbitz Facebook page to register their opposition.

"I will no longer be using Orbitz for bookings," wrote one customer. "If Orbitz wishes to choose Fox ’News’ hatred over previously loyal customers (while portraying itself as an LGTB-friendly company, considering other adverts), it can stand to lose the millions of dollars in business."

Wrote another, "I will not use Orbitz in the future as long as they advertise on the Fox News Network, and their advertising dollars support the bigoted, racist, homophobic views and outright lies and pandering espoused by most of the Fox commentators."

"Orbitz loves gay dollars and, we hope, LGBT people, but by funding homophobes and charlatans like hosts Bill O’Reilly and Mike Huckabee, Orbitz sends the wrong message," Jacob said, according to the Advocate article. "Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender people can go to plenty of other travel sites.

"We count on Orbitz to do the right thing and stop buying advertising on Fox News Channel so that LGBT people can continue to shop with Orbitz," Jacob added. "The alternatives are clear."

GLAAD head Jarrett Barrios told the media that Orbtiz, and other businesses with "strong track records of LGBT inclusion, should think twice before supporting Fox News’ pervasive pattern of indefensible bias against our community."

An Orbitz spokesperson told Advocate that GLAAD "mischaracterized [their] relationship with LGBT consumers," and pointed to the company’s support of GLBT travel and events.

"Our advertising, which integrates inclusive messaging reflective of our diverse audience, will continue to respect and serve the needs of ALL travelers no matter their politics, race, religion, sexual orientation or gender," added the Orbitz spokesperson.

Media Matters has started a website called DropFox.com, a May 19 Hollywood Reporter article said. The site encouraged a number of other companies, including Priceline and Netflix, to stop advertising with Fox.

"DropFox’s goal is to pressure advertisers into either pulling their ads from Fox News or forcing Fox to alter its usually conservative messages," the Hollywood Reporter said.

In turn, Orbitz accused Media Matters of a "smear campaign," and spoke up in defense of their advertising practices.

"This is a political organization that has been funded pretty extensively to go after one network, and we aren’t going to engage in that fight," said Orbitz spokesperson, Brian Hoyt.

"We have a strict policy of tolerance and non-discrimination, and that means we don’t favor one political side over another," Hoyt continued. "Tolerance is a two-way street."

Hoyt went on to add, "We’re going to advertise on conservative TV stations, liberal TV stations and--if there are any out there--unbiased news broadcasts."

But Media Matters’ Elise Hogue argued that the network has an image of being opposed the very things that the targeted companies say they stand for.

"These are companies that quite honestly aren’t reaching their stated demographic," Hogue told the Hollywood Reporter. "They have more to lose than gain by advertising on Fox."

Added Hogue, "Most of them are tilted in the direction of caring about the environment, civil rights--the things Fox News has systematically spoken against."

Equality Matters spokesperson Trevor Thomas also spoke out following Orbitz’s comments.

"I’m disappointed to see Orbitz dismiss our concerns as a mere political disagreement," Thomas said in a press release that was posted at DropFox.com. "We’re not talking about coming out against policies; from comparing homosexuality to necrophilia to equating same-sex marriage to marrying a duck, Fox has a history of mocking and belittling the LGBT community.

"It’s unclear to me how Orbitz’s strict policy of tolerance and non-discrimination’ comports with Fox News’ pattern of attacks on the LGBT community," Thomas continued. "I’m also surprised to see them claim that the letter addressed to them ’mischaracterized’ their record with the LGBT community.

"In fact, we explicitly stated that we reached out to Orbitz because they’ve have been such a good friend to the LGBT community--a relationship that they characterize as one of their ’5 Pillars of Global Responsibility,’ " Thomas added. "We wanted to encourage them to protect themselves from being associated with Fox News when Fox inevitably airs their next indecent anti-gay screed."

Kilian Melloy serves as EDGE Media Network's Assistant Arts Editor, writing about film, theater, food and drink, and travel, as well as contributing a column. His professional memberships include the National Lesbian & Gay Journalists Association, the Boston Online Film Critics Association, and the Boston Theater Critics Association's Elliot Norton Awards Committee.

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