Advertisers are sending mixed messages in response to calls for a boycott of Sean Hannity.
An effort to pressure companies that advertise on Mr. Hannity’s program on Fox News appeared to gain momentum in recent days based on Twitter messages from brands including Keurig, Reddi Wip, Realtor.com, Nature’s Bounty and Volvo Car USA.
But by Tuesday, those companies were clarifying — or even deleting — statements they had made on the platform that indicated they had pulled ads from Mr. Hannity’s show because of comments he made about Roy Moore, the embattled Republican candidate for Senate in Alabama. Those moves followed a backlash against Keurig that included fans of Mr. Hannity posting videos of themselves destroying the company’s coffee makers.
“It’s pretty unusual to see companies like this handling an issue so poorly,” said Kara Alaimo, an assistant professor of public relations at Hofstra University. She said it was especially surprising to see companies like Realtor.com and Volvo delete widely circulated tweets.
“This idea that you can take back a tweet is pretty shocking,” she said. “It’s remarkable that they clearly didn’t vet their social media posts internally and everyone wasn’t on board when they tweeted.”
It’s the latest social media kerfuffle involving consumers, advertisers and content deemed offensive, at least by some and often along partisan lines, from outlets like Fox News and Breitbart News, as well as cultural institutions like Shakespeare in the Park. Calling for an advertiser boycott has become a common strategy since the presidential election. A group — in the case of Mr. Hannity, the liberal watchdog Media Matters — circulates a list of advertisers and urges people to contact them directly, particularly on social media.
This time, some companies have stumbled. Realtor.com said in a tweet over the weekend that “we are not currently, and will not be running TV ads on Hannity.” Later, it deleted the tweet and posted a statement on its website saying the company advertises across “dozens of television networks” and will continue placing ads on Fox News and its top shows.
“Some staff didn’t realize that we have a practice of not engaging in boycotts,” a spokeswoman said of the deleted tweet. “Senior management at Realtor.com became aware over the weekend of the error, and the tweets were taken down Sunday and the policy was posted on our corporate website.”
Volvo Car USA apparently responded to a tweet from a consumer on Monday to say, “We have spoken with our media agency and have advised them to cease advertising on the show.” But that message has disappeared. The company did not respond to requests for comment.
Some brands have been swept up in the boycott talk without having advertised on Mr. Hannity’s program in months. Nature’s Bounty, for example, has responded to consumers’ tweets in recent days to say it does not run ads on the program. Some connected that to Mr. Hannity’s comments last week, but a spokeswoman said in an email that the company had not advertised on the show since the summer.
Reddi Wip and Hebrew National, both owned by ConAgra Foods, have also been linked to the boycott after saying on Twitter that they had removed Mr. Hannity’s program from their advertising plans. But a spokeswoman said on Tuesday that the show had not been part of its media spending for “several months.”
“We should have replied with a more thorough tweet,” Lanie Friedman, the spokeswoman, said in an email, “so people realized this was not a recent decision.”
Some brands, including Eloquii and 23andMe, do appear to have pulled their ads from Mr. Hannity’s show based on Twitter statements. But they declined to elaborate on their reasoning.
This most recent issue started Thursday after Mr. Hannity discussed allegations against Mr. Moore, who has been accused of making sexual advances toward teenage girls when he was in his early 30s. Mr. Hannity, during his radio show, seemed to justify Mr. Moore’s reported conduct by calling one of the encounters “consensual.”
Later, on his TV program, Mr. Hannity said he “misspoke,” though he went on to discuss the possibility of Mr. Moore’s accusers lying for money or political purposes. Calls for a boycott followed.
Brands may be exercising caution based on the backlash that Keurig experienced. The brand waded into a maelstrom when it said it planned to halt ads on Mr. Hannity’s show, partly because it was responding to a tweet from Angelo Carusone, the president of Media Matters.
Keurig’s chief executive said in an email to employees on Monday that while it was appropriate for the brand to pause ads on the program, its decision to express that in a tweet was “highly unusual” and “done outside of company protocols.”’ He apologized to employees for any negativity they endured from the “appearance of ‘taking sides.’”
During his show on Monday, Mr. Hannity lauded the support from his fans but asked them to stop destroying the machines, calling Keurig a “victim” of Media Matters. He said on Tuesday that he planned to give away 500 Keurig machines and accepted the company’s “apology,” without noting it was directed to employees.
Through it all, Ms. Alaimo said, the messages from the brands have become muddled.
“What all of these companies need to do right now is publicly articulate what their policies are with respect to advertising, and under what circumstances they would pull their ads from broadcasters,” she said.