USAA facing calls to drop advertising on Tucker Carlson show after he calls general ‘pig,’ ‘stupid’

Cecilia Nysing

[Note to readers: This article was updated on July 2 , 2021, to clarify that USAA has not advertised on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” since 2019.]

San Antonio-based USAA is facing calls to withdraw its advertising from Fox News’ Tucker Carlson show after he referred to the U.S.’ top military officer as a “pig” and “stupid” during a segment titled “anti-white mania.”

Carlson blasted Gen. Mark Milley after the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told members of Congress last week that he found it “offensive” that military officers were being called “woke” for learning about “white rage” in the wake of the Jan. 6 assault on the U.S. Capitol.

Milley didn’t get his job because he is “brilliant” or “brave” but because he is “obsequious,” Carlson told viewers of the segment Thursday on “Tucker Carlson Tonight.”

“He knows who to suck up to, and he’s more than happy to do it,” the television host said.

Veterans and affiliated organizations have taken to social media decrying the company’s advertising on the show and Fox News in general.

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the House Armed Services Committee Wednesday that he wants to understand “white rage” and what led to the Jan. 6 attack on the U.S. Capitol. That prompted Fox News host Tucker Carlson to call Milley “obsequious.”

Saul Loeb /AFP via Getty Images

The complaint was out of date, it turns out. USAA hasn’t advertised on “Tucker Carlson Tonight” since September 2019, according to TVRev, a group that tracks television advertising.

But USAA did not want to say so publicly — apparently for fear of antagonizing Carlson’s admirers among its customer base. Tony Wells, USAA’s chief brand officer, declined to comment on the company’s advertising when contacted by the Express-News.

The insurance and financial services giant is in a tough spot because its more than 13 million members are exclusively military personnel, veterans and their families. Many flooded Twitter, USAA’s Facebook page and its online community forum, threatening to take their business elsewhere.

“So, @USAA, is this who you advertise with?” Veterans for Responsible Leadership, a nonpartisan veterans group, said on Twitter. “Asking for 18 million friends.”

Joseph J. Collins, a retired Army colonel and USAA member for 51 years, called on the company to stop advertising on Fox News.

“Responsible criticism of the armed forces is welcome, but vile commentary is not,” he tweeted. “USAA, don’t support irresponsible attacks on the Armed Forces. Stop supporting this right wing radical or your members will pull the plug on you.”

Moe Davis, a retired Air Force colonel and USAA member for 38 years, warned that he would take his business elsewhere.

“I’ve already moved our mutual funds and brokerage accounts. I guess I need to move our insurance and banking and completely (sever) our ties if they’re supporting sedition and the trashing of the military by (expletive) who didn’t serve,” he tweeted.

“I want the Board of Directors and the CEO to know how disgusting it is to support a white supremacist like Tucker Carlson and his hate inspiring show,” a person identified as T-84 said Sunday in a comment on USAA’s website. “He seeks to divide the USA, not unite it. I find it totally disgusting that the the Association I’ve been a member of for 48 yrs supports this trash and hate inspiring commentator.”

USAA responded to a member who went on Twitter to implore the company to dissociate itself from Carlson’s show.

“We understand your concerns and sincerely apologize for the frustration this has caused you,” USAA replied. “Our advertising is intended to reach members of the military community who can benefit from USAA’s well-known commitment to our mission and delivering world-class service.”

Four years ago, USAA touched off a firestorm on social media after it decided to pull ads from Sean Hannity’s television show. At the time, USAA tweeted that “advertising on opinion shows is not in accordance with our policy, and we’ve since corrected it.”

That led Hannity supporters to urge USAA customers to drop the company, using the hashtags #BoycottUSAA and #IStandWithHannity, to express their outrage.

Bowing to public pressure from its members, USAA said it would buy airtime on Hannity’s show and other opinion news programs — including on MSNBC and CNN — after initially suspending advertising.

The latest flare-up comes as USAA has been increasing its advertising spending amid intense competition from established players and upstarts.

Its property and casualty insurance businesses collectively plowed $501.3 million into advertising last year, a 38 percent jump from the $363.8 million spent in 2019, figures from S&P Global Market Intelligence and public filings show. The percentage increase was well above the industry as a whole.

Last month, Wells declined to say whether the company was still advertising on news opinion programs.

“We don’t get into specific details of where and what we buy, networks,” he said. “Obviously, you can go and watch that show and reach your own conclusions. We don’t get into that because, again, we consider it competitive where we spend our dollars and where our competitors spend their dollars.”

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