With the 2022 midterms on the horizon, three major Dem campaign committees focused on the Senate, the House of Representatives, and gubernatorial races tried to purchase joint ads on abortion and gun control with Hulu earlier this month. The same ads were successfully placed on an ABC affiliate in Philadelphia (Disney also owns ABC) and ESPN (another Disney property); and according to The Verge, the spots ran on other digital platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and Roku. But the ads never ran on Hulu.
“Hulu’s censorship of the truth is outrageous, offensive, and another step down a dangerous path for our country,” said the committees’ executive directors, Christie Roberts, Tim Persico and Noam Lee, in a joint statement. “Voters have the right to know the facts about MAGA Republicans’ agenda on issues like abortion — and Hulu is doing a huge disservice to the American people by blocking voters from learning the truth about the GOP record or denying these issues from even being discussed.”
Hulu did not immediately return Rolling Stone’s request for comment.
Hulu reportedly has a policy prohibiting ads that feature content considered controversial. And like all digital providers, it has more leeway in choosing which political ads it does and does not run, as it is not beholden to the Communications Act of 1934, which requires broadcast TV networks to give equal time to politicians.
At least one other Democrat running this fall had similar ad rejection experiences with Hulu. At the end of June, Suraj Patel, who’s running for congress in New York City, sent a letter to Disney CEO Bob Chapek and Hulu President Joe Early after an ad of his that touched on abortion, guns, climate change, and the Jan. 6 insurrection was rejected. Patel claimed a Hulu rep told him there was an “unwritten Hulu policy” that deemed mentioning these topics too “sensitive.”
While an altered version of Patel’s ad that replaced footage of the Jan. 6 riot did run on Hulu, after the Post’s story ran yesterday, July 25, Hulu told his campaign the original ad would be accepted. (A source claimed that the decision about the original Patel ad had been made prior to Monday.)
The controversy over the Dem ads comes as Hulu’s parent company, Disney, has been hammered with attacks from both sides of the political spectrum. First the company was criticized both internally and externally for taking its time to speak out against Florida’s controversial “Don’t Say Gay” law. After it did finally come out against the legislation, the company quickly became a major right-wing punching bag, and Gov. Ron DeSantis even signed a bill that would strip the company of its special tax status in the state.