But Fox News has stood by Carlson, who with an audience of 2.9 million viewers a night is often among the most watched programs on cable. Rupert Murdoch, executive chairman of Fox News parent 21st Century Fox, has been a strong supporter of the conservative journalist, personally selecting him to become a full-time host in 2016. Murdoch is also said to abhor the idea of caving to left-wing critics of Fox News.
Fox News also remained behind prime-time host Laura Ingraham, who lost many of her sponsors last year after joking on Twitter about Parkland, Fla., high school shooting survivor David Hogg being rejected by several colleges.
Fox News host Sean Hannity has been similarly subject to advertiser pullouts over controversial positions, but many major advertisers have returned to his program.
Fox News can afford to be patient with advertiser fallout. More than half of its annual revenue comes from subscriber fees from cable and satellite companies carrying the channel.
But Gambelli, who took over ad sales at Fox News in 2017 after a successful run as a top sales executive at NBC, worked hard to assuage the Madison Avenue crowd, noting that the channel's viewers are savvy enough to know that sponsoring a commentators' program is not a statement supporting their views.
"They know that when an advertiser airs a commercial in a certain show they are doing it to market to them and not to take a political stand," she said.
Gambelli and Scott emphasized to advertisers that more viewers are coming to the network for its news coverage than opinion. The channel's audiences for special events such as the State of the Union, the midterm elections and the Kavanaugh hearings were higher than its competitors on cable and the broadcast networks.
"We have invested millions of dollars in news gathering and in our infrastructure over the last 21/2 years," said Scott, who played up the loyalty and engagement level of the channel's audience. Fox News recently launched an ad campaign with the theme "America Is Watching," to stress that it has the most cable news viewers in every region of the country, not just those where President Trump is popular.
The presentation included a panel that featured Fox News anchors Bret Baier, Harris Faulkner and Neil Cavuto, who often present a more skeptical view of the Trump administration than what the network offers in prime time or on the president's favorite morning TV program "Fox and Friends." They were joined by Ingraham, who was kinder and gentler than her sharp-elbowed TV persona, and Fox Business Network host Maria Bartiromo.
The protesters unhappy with Fox News said they see no distinction between the opinion shows and straight journalism of Fox News.
"Fox's news side and opinion side are cogs in the same propaganda machine and if you sponsor one show on Fox you're implicitly sponsoring any opinion on Fox News," said Laura Keiter, a representative for Media Matters.
Conservative news outlets have countered that Media Matters has not held liberal hosts such as MSNBC's Joy Reid or "The View" co-host Joy Behar to the same scrutiny for offensive comments they have made.
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