The Disney-backed streaming service Hulu is refusing to run political ads on central themes of Democratic midterm campaigns, including abortion and guns, prompting fury from the party’s candidates and leaders.
The streaming service popular among younger voters, which has a policy against running content deemed controversial, is like other digital providers in not being bound by the Communications Act of 1934, a law that requires broadcast television networks to provide politicians equal access to the airwaves.
The Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee, Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee and Democratic Governors Association tried to purchase joint ads on abortion and guns with Hulu on July 15, along with identical placements on a Disney-affiliated ABC affiliate in Philadelphia and the company’s cable sports channel ESPN. The Hulu ads never ran, while the others did.
“Hulu’s censorship of the truth is outrageous, offensive, and another step down a dangerous path for our country,” the executive directors of the three committees, Christie Roberts, Tim Persico and Noam Lee, said in a statement provided to The Washington Post. “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.”
The party committees join a growing list of Democratic candidates who have had spots mentioning gun violence, abortion or political violence rejected by Hulu.
Suraj Patel, a Democratic candidate for Congress in New York City, posted a letter of protest, first reported by Jezebel, to Disney CEO Bob Chapek and Hulu President Joe Earley complaining that a Hulu representative told his campaign there was an “unwritten Hulu policy” that deemed the topics in one of his ads too “sensitive” for the platform. The ad in question mentioned Republican successes around abortion, climate change and gun violence, while also showing footage of the violence from the Jan. 6, 2021, attack on the U.S. Capitol.
“To not discuss these topics in my campaign ad is to not address the most important issues facing the United States,” Patel wrote. “Your ban on mobilization messaging has a perverse effect on Democracy.”
Patel said in an interview Sunday that the ad was allowed to run after he edited it, replacing the word “climate change” with “democracy” and replacing the footage of violence at the U.S. Capitol with footage of former president Donald Trump. He has not received a response from Chapek or Earley, he said.
“This policy has incredible implications for people nationwide, both voters and people running for office,” Patel said. “You need to communicate with younger voters on the mediums where they are watching. Cable is not where they are watching.”
Hulu contacted Patel’s campaign Monday afternoon, after the initial publication of this story that morning, to tell him that his original ad would be accepted, including the images of violence on Jan. 6.
“I want to thank Hulu for allowing Americans to know about the most pressing issues of our day,” Patel said in a statement after the approval. “Sometimes a simple conversation can make change.”