BuzzFeed terminated a lucrative ad deal with the Republican National Committee today over Donald Trump's toxic rhetoric. The deal — which Politico reports was worth $1.3 million — would have involved BuzzFeed running ads during the general election this fall. However, now that Trump is the prospective Republican nominee, the media company is taking a stand against a Trump campaign that is "directly opposed to the freedoms of our employees in the United States and around the world."
Trump ads are hazardous to your health
"We certainly don’t like to turn away revenue that funds all the important work we do across the company," BuzzFeed founder and CEO Jonah Peretti wrote in a memo sent to staff this morning. "However, in some cases we must make business exceptions: we don’t run cigarette ads because they are hazardous to our health, and we won’t accept Trump ads for the exact same reason." Peretti declined our request to comment.
BuzzFeed editor-in-chief Ben Smith insists that the decision to pull out of the deal won't affect editorial staff's ability to cover Trump in the months ahead. "This was Jonah’s call, and the prerogative of a publisher," Smith wrote in a follow-up memo.
RNC chief strategist and communications director Sean Spicer responded dismissively to the news:
It's impossible to deny that the business operation of a site as influential as BuzzFeed condemning the Trump campaign is significant. Despite the ugliness of this year's election cycle, media executives are currently counting on a lucrative general election thanks to heavy spending from both the Clinton and Trump campaigns. Eddie Lazarus, executive vice president for the Tribune Media Company, said last month that his company expects "$200 million of gross political revenue this year." CBS CEO Les Moonves said in February that Trump "may not be good for America, but it’s damn good for CBS, that’s all I got to say."
BuzzFeed's decision flies in the face of conventional business practice
BuzzFeed's likening Trump to cigarettes breaks with conventional business practice. However, it's important to note that the company that serves a millennial audience deeply invested in the policies Trump opposes. Last year, the site added rainbow colors to its logo to celebrate the Supreme Court ruling in favor of marriage equality. "We firmly believe that for a number of issues, including civil rights, women’s rights, anti-racism, and LGBT equality, there are not two sides," Smith said at the time.
It's difficult to know if BuzzFeed's decision will put pressure on other media and tech companies to divest themselves of Republican ad dollars ahead of the general election. However, it's clear that today's decision speaks to just how divisive the political field has gotten during Trump's rise.