Why CU Denver, Winter Park Won't Let Their Ads Appear on Breitbart News

A screen capture from yesterday's Breitbart News home page with the announcement that controversy-magnet Milo Yiannopoulos has separated from the site.
A screen capture from yesterday's Breitbart News home page with the announcement that controversy-magnet Milo Yiannopoulos has separated from the site.
Breitbart News, the online spawning ground of Steve Bannon, a powerful adviser to President Donald Trump, is an alt-right outlet pilloried by critics for what they see as racism, sexism and the sort of vile invective spewed by Milo Yiannopoulos, who resigned from his gig as editor of Breitbart Tech on Tuesday, February 21, after video surfaced of him defending sexual relationships between adult men and thirteen-year-old boys. It's also the target of a Twitter campaign intended to convince advertisers not to support the site. But while the University of Colorado Denver and Winter Park ski area are among several Colorado enterprises to have removed Breitbart from their media plans, representatives of both say they're not trying to make a political statement.

Here's how Sleeping Giants, the operation behind the aforementioned crusade, describes its mission: "We are trying to stop racist websites by stopping their ad dollars. Many companies don't even know it's happening. It's time to tell them."

A message at the top of the Sleeping Giants Twitter page offers the following instructions to those who'd like to help achieve this goal. "1. Go to Breitbart and take a screenshot of an ad next to some of their content. 2. TWEET the screenshot to the company with a polite, non-offensive note to notify them of the placement. 3. TAG @slpng_giants so we can keep track of the progress."

If companies continue to advertise on Breitbart, Sleeping Giants tweets out evidence of their actions. For example, a message sent out to Whirlpool yesterday reads: "@WhirlpoolCorp Your ads are still on racist,sexist Breitbart in France+Belgium.Pls OPT OUT,stop funding hate.@slpng_giants_eu @slpng_giants."

The latest list of companies and organizations to have pulled their ads from Breitbart is on view below. Among the 1,132 entities listed are a number from Colorado, including Purgatory Resort and Osprey Packs, based in the southwestern part of the state.

click to enlarge Sleeping Giants' Twitter profile pic. - SLEEPING GIANTS TWITTER
Sleeping Giants' Twitter profile pic.
Also on the roster is CU Denver. But spokeswoman Emily Williams, corresponding via e-mail, maintains that "Sleeping Giants has not contacted CU Denver about where we place digital advertising."

So how did the university wind up on the list? "Currently the university’s marketing team works with two vendors who place digital ads on our behalf," Williams goes on. "These vendors identify websites our target audience is likely to visit and see the ad. As a rule, these vendors will not place ads on sites that endorse hate speech, alcohol, violence, offensive language, illegal drugs or illegal downloads. One of these vendors has eliminated Breitbart and similar sites from their network of advertisers."

As for Winter Park, spokesman Steve Hurlbert says, "We've got a list of websites that our digital marketing agency has that we just don't advertise on. It basically runs the gamut of all political-leaning websites."

Hurlbert confirms that Winter Park isn't singling out Breitbart News for this treatment. In his words, "We like to think of ourselves as apolitical here. We don't want to take a side. We feel that if there's anything that can bring people together, it's skiing."

He adds, "We don't want to be on any left-leaning websites, either — or anything that would be considered pornographic. We'd definitely be off those, as well. Our stance is that we don't want to take a side and we're here for everybody."

This approach suggests that Winter Park and, to a lesser extent, CU Denver are trying not to offend progressives while simultaneously avoiding the risk of making themselves a target for Breitbart News.

Which definitely doesn't play nice. See the latest Sleeping Giants list of advertisers that have blocked Breitbart below.

Sleeping Giants Confirmed List -- Updated 2.7.17

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts