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Why Sean Hannity’s superfans are destroying their Keurig coffee makers

A subplot to the Roy Moore scandal.

Photo by Paul Zimmerman/Getty Images
Jen Kirby is a senior foreign and national security reporter at Vox, where she covers global instability.

The latest frontier in the Roy Moore scandal: Keurig coffee makers.

The company pulled its ads from Fox News talk show host Sean Hannity’s program after he appeared to defend Republican Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore. Now Hannity’s supporters are boycotting — and wrecking — the pod-coffee machines.

The Washington Post reported Thursday that four women have accused Moore of pursuing relationships with them decades ago, when they were in their teens and he was in his 30s. Hannity, following the report on Thursday, suggested false allegations are made in these situations, and appeared to justify some of the encounters as consensual. (Hannity did grill Moore about the allegations on his radio program Friday.)

After Hannity’s initial comments, Media Matters, the progressive media watchdog organization, criticized Keurig and other companies for their ad buys on Hannity’s program:

In response, Keurig — along with four other advertisers, including and Nature’s Bounty — pulled their ads from the program. But Hannity’s defenders singled out Keurig’s decision, and #BoycottKeurig was born.

And perhaps because Keurig coffee machines are a rather infrequent purchase and so difficult to boycott, the movement turned into a series of Twitter videos of people smashing their coffee makers to pieces.

Hannity appeared to revel in the backlash to the backlash, and announced he’d be giving away 500 coffee makers — of unspecific brand — to his supporters.

Keurig CEO Bob Gamgort sent out a company memo, obtained by the Washington Post, about the decision to pull its ads, and the viral outrage it provoked. In it, Gamgort took issue with the public announcement on Twitter of its ad pull-out, which called an “unacceptable situation.”

In most situations such as this one, we would “pause” our advertising on that particular program and reevaluate our go-forward strategy at a later date. That represents a prudent “business as usual” decision for us, as the protection of our brand is our foremost concern. However, the decision to publicly communicate our programming decision via our Twitter account was highly unusual. This 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.

Pressure on advertisers to pull their ads from conservative programming has become a major weapon in the culture wars. Advertiser boycotts forced Glenn Beck off the air in 2011, and Fox News finally fired Bill O’Reilly earlier this year after sexual harassment allegations in part because he was hemorrhaging advertisers. Destroying a coffee maker that’s already been purchased doesn’t have quite the same financial force as pulling a major primetime ad buy, but it shows how hard it is for brands to extricate themselves from the content they’re sponsoring.

The campaign to boycott/destroy Keurigs comes as more and more GOP senators are suggesting Moore step aside in the wake of the scandal, including, most recently, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. Moore has denied the allegations and derided the Post story as “completely false.”

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