Last Wednesday, USAA dipped its toe into politics by pulling its advertising from FOX's "Hannity" in protest of host Sean Hannity's "reporting" on a straight-up conspiracy theory. In return, hundreds of Hannity supporters dropped their USAA insurance plans — and eviscerated the company on social media.
This, apparently, was enough to get USAA backpedalling. Less than a week later, USAA ads have returned to Hannity's commercial breaks.
"We heard concerns from many members who watch and listen to these programs," USAA said in a statement on Tuesday. The San Antonio-based company claimed their return had nothing to do with public opinion. "The decision was based on our advertising policy and not the result of outside pressure or related to anything done or said on these programs."
The timeline suggests a different story.
On May 23, liberal advocacy group Media Matters for America published a list
of all "Hannity" advertisers, including USAA, encouraging the public to avoid patronizing these companies unless they pulled their ads from the show. While MMFA has a laundry list of issues with Hannity, this organized protest was a response to his coverage of a wildly discredited conspiracy theory about the 2016 death of a Democratic National Committee member.
A day later, USAA announced it was pulling all of its ads from Hannity's show. Overnight, angry conservative USAA card holders flooded the company's social media pages with messages like "You suck I'm canceling my auto and home policy today" and "Radical snowflakes!" with the hashtag #BoycottUSAA.
At first, USAA thought they found the solution to quell its angry members: drop ads from all mainstream talk shows to depoliticize the issue. The company scrambled to pull ads from "Hardball" and "The Rachel Maddow Show" on MSNBC, along with Jake Tapper's "The Lead" on CNN, among others.
By by Tuesday, the company had reinstated its ads on all of these shows, including "Hannity," and announced it was reviewing its advertising policies.
Of course, the boycott cycle continues online, as liberal USAA members call the company a "coward" for bending under pressure. In a statement
to the Washington Post
, Angelo Carusone, MMFA president, said the reaction only shows the risks of backing the FOX show: "Many are currently experiencing firsthand that doing business with Hannity means subjecting your brand to one potential PR crisis after another."