“Liberals are offended by this video of a Keurig being thrown off of a building. Please retweet to offend a liberal.”
That tweet, which was posted with a video of a Keurig Green Mountain coffee maker being dropped from the second story of an apartment building, was one of many sent over the weekend with the hashtag #boycottkeurig.
By Sunday night, it was a trending topic on Twitter.
It was the second time this year that Hannity has faced the threat of an advertiser exodus of the type that helped cement Bill O’Reilly’s exit from Fox News.
Why call for a boycott of Keurig? And why would liberals be offended by the sight of an environmentally problematic, pod-based coffee maker meeting an untimely doom?
The story begins, as you might have expected, with Sean Hannity.
On Thursday, the Fox News host spoke about the allegations against Roy Moore, the Alabama Senate candidate who, The Washington Post had reported that day, made sexual advances toward teenage girls when he was in his early 30s, including a 14-year-old.
Hannity, describing those actions on his radio show while speaking with a co-host, Lynda McLaughlin, seemed to try to justify Moore’s reported conduct by calling one of the encounters “consensual.”
Later, on his television show, Hannity said that the statement “was absolutely wrong” and that he “misspoke.” He then brought up the possibility of accusers lying for money, or for political purposes.
On Friday, Angelo Carusone, president of Media Matters for America, the partisan watchdog organisation that has campaigned against Hannity since at least May, began to criticise advertisers for sponsoring his show in light of his comments about Moore.
Keurig responded to Carusone and said that it had stopped an ad from airing during Hannity’s show. It was one of five companies to indicate that it would pull advertising, including Realtor.com and the vitamin company Nature’s Bounty.
It was the second time this year that Hannity has faced the threat of an advertiser exodus of the type that helped cement Bill O’Reilly’s exit from Fox News. But this time, Hannity’s online supporters fought back in numbers against the advertisers — even, in some cases, destroying their coffee makers.
Keurig did not immediately respond to a question about whether it would reconsider advertising on the program. But in an email to employees, the company’s chief executive, Bob Gamgort, said that its acknowledgement that it had pulled the ad was not standard practice and constituted “an unacceptable situation.”
The email, which was obtained by The Washington Post and confirmed as valid by a company spokeswoman, Katie Gilroy, said that the tweet “gave the appearance of ‘taking sides’ in an emotionally charged debate that escalated on Twitter and beyond over the weekend, which was not our intent.”
“Our company and brand reputations are too valuable to be put at risk in this manner,” it said.
It was difficult to measure the scale of the anti-Keurig counterprotest; even when a topic begins to trend, the tweets are often spread and amplified by bots and other politically motivated accounts. But the calls for a boycott underscored the difficulties that US companies face in a hyperpartisan era where any sort of political stance can set off online protests.
Hannity responded to the videos gleefully Sunday, calling them “hilarious.” On Sunday evening, he pledged to give away hundreds of coffee makers. (He did not specify the brand.)
On Monday, though, Hannity said he had accepted Gamgort’s apology and urged his supporters to stop smashing their machines.
“In my opinion, Keurig was a victim of a group that has a radical agenda, and they didn’t know,” he told listeners, adding that he had five Keurig machines himself.
While some on the left dutifully took up arms, tweeting in support of Keurig, others just seemed bemused (or amused).
“Sorry, I was off Twitter for a while,” wrote the author Geraldine DeRuiter. “It appears that people are destroying coffee machines to show their support of child molesters?”