Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Jet Blue's Embarrassment: Shh... Don't Tell Limbaugh

Go read Michelle, HotAir and Ace of Spades. The quick and dirty is this: JetBlue is a corporate sponsor of the Yearly Kos convention. Bill O'Reilly's show cornered CEO David Barger to confront him with some of the vile and hateful things that have come out of that website over the years:

Here's a short quote that typifies the exchange:

BARGER: It’s, I’m really not going to mix politics from the standpoint of running our business.

WATTERS: But aren’t you guys kind of mixing politics by, you know, sponsoring this convention.

BARGER: It’s… I can see where you’re trying to go with it, but I’m just not going to, you know, to respond to that here at this point in time.
Leave aside Barger's backward defense that the company won't talk about Kos because it's trying not to get mixed up in politics. It seems to me that O'Reilly's crew were asking the wrong questions. Or perhaps they merely put the cart before the horse.

It's fine and appropriate to ask whether JetBlue was collectively aware of some of the vile things that have been said on the site. At some level, they must have been. I don't believe any company of the level of JetBlue makes such an endorsement without someone in the chain of command being familiar with the product. I have no doubt that there's someone at JetBlue who's a big fan of Kos, and was thrilled to see the company 'make a statement.'

But there's the thing. I'd first like to know why JetBlue chose to make this statement. Was this purely some low-level staffer authorizing a $1,000 check, or was it the Board approving $100K? I want to know, because I'd prefer to continue flying JetBlue. But as things stand now, I don't think I can. If JetBlue endorses Kos... well, they don't need my money.

Dean Barnett has a good piece on this:
That makes the decision to sponsor the YearlyKos officially a spectacularly stupid one. The Daily Kos is not only political, but a political lightning rod. It doesn’t get more political than the Daily Kos. The fact that someone at JetBlue thought it was a good idea to hitch their wagon to Markos’ star is truly stupefying...

The amazing thing about the JetBlue/YearlyKos thing is that people doing the advertising for JetBlue could be so ignorant regarding either the blogosphere or the nature of business. As far as business is concerned, you don’t attach yourself to an entity that not just alienates but also offends and angers half of your potential customer base.
Dean's right. And I suspect that the problem isn't so much the blogosphere, but talk radio. If O'Reilly is talking about this, can Limbaugh and Hannity be far behind? And while the number of conservative blog readers is merely in the hundreds of thousands, it's in the millions for those guys. Once this story makes that leap, it'll start showing up in ticket sales.

For what it's worth, Barger's political donations don't suggest that he's a Kos fan. A quick review of Political MoneyLine shows that he's given to plenty of Republicans, including a donation of $2,100 to Mitt Romney's Presidential campaign. I don't know how that would go over if he shows up at the Kos-fest.

Update: Over on the Left, ThinkProgress reports that 'voices across the blogosphere' (translation: the most extreme left 5% of the blogosphere) have criticized the O'Reilly report. Whatever.

The post also promises that readers can fly Jet Blue safe in the knowledge that O'Reilly won't be on the plane with them.

Didn't take long for Jet Blue to become a 'Blue' Airline, did it? I don't have an MBA, but I don't think that's a profit-maximizing strategy.

Update II: Noel Sheppard says that the support we're talking about is only a few airline tickets. That clearly puts them closer to the 'low-level staffer approving $1,000' scenario above.

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