Fox News host Bill O’Reilly is in trouble, as he faces a series of sexual harassment cases. The dilemma for Fox News CEO Rupert Murdoch is this: either he dumps the station’s “top performing star, who they are paying in the high teens of millions per year”; or he must endure the wrath of the advertisers. Already 11 corporations have pulled their ads from O’Reilly’s show, undermining its financial viability.
Oh, the travails of capitalism!
I want to highlight a statement from one of those advertisers, Mercedes-Benz. It is nothing special. In fact, it is now the standard-issue statement from large corporations in such circumstances. Mercedes-Benz obviously thinks it is a reasonable position to adopt. And the causal way it is included in this Guardian article suggests that the paper and its readers are supposed to think it is reasonable too.
Here is what Donna Boland, manager of corporate communications for Mercedes Benz USA, says in a statement:
The allegations [against O’Reilly] are disturbing and, given the importance of women in every aspect of our business, we don’t feel this is a good environment in which to advertise our products right now.
Interestingly, Mercedes-Benz appear not to think that men would or should care about suspicions that O’Reilly sexually abused women.
Of course, we all understand that corporations only care about profits, and that in this case they are worried only about the possible damage to their image with women consumers from association with O’Reilly. The battle isn’t about the the truth of O’Reilly’s claims or the women’s. The issue, as presented by the Guardian, is solely about whether Murdoch’s commitment to make money from his association with O’Reilly outweighs the advertisers’ commitment not to lose money from an association with O’Reilly. The stronger profit motive will win out.
What interests me here is that we have become so inured to the pathology of neoliberalism that we are fine with both sides publicly admitting that this is all they care about. Boland can say that its decision is solely related to the potential damage to its image with women consumers, and know it won’t damage the corporations’ image with those same women. In fact, Mercedes-Benz and its PR team are presumably confident that their flagrantly self-serving and cynical approach to the issue will actually bolster their image with women consumers.
Has the rule of the corporations become so unquestioned that their amorality is now shared by us all? It seems so.