No company wants to get caught in the middle of a political mud fight. And that's where German auto manufacturer BMW is at this very moment. People questioned and attacked the company yesterday over its participation in the Laura Ingraham advertiser boycott that Parkland student David Hogg called for.

Just one problem, and it wasn't a Facebook-style awkward almost apology. BMW hadn't been an advertiser on Fox News for a year and had never advertised on the show in the past, so had no ads to pull.

Companies have come to one of those times in history, like during the McCarthy era, when political hysteria becomes the proverbial rock and hard place for businesses. You will be damned if you do or if you don't, and the impact on your company will depend on your market and the whims of the public. Then again, an attempt to stay in the middle, even with good reason -- even if that was where you were all the time -- may still cost you. Call it being trapped between a rock, a hard place, and social media.

The interchange

A quick recap on the Ingraham front, for those who may have missed the kerfuffle. Hogg, one of the Parkland survivors pushing for greater gun control, said in an interview that some colleges that rejected his applications and others that had accepted him. Ingraham accused Hogg of whining.

In response, Hogg called for an advertiser boycott of Ingraham. It was effective and has resulted in Ingraham's show losing half its ad time last week, according to The Wrap.

Not good.

Ingraham apologized in a tweet "for any upset or hurt my tweet might have caused him or any of the brave victims of Parkland." But that only came after the ad losses, according to the Washington Post. Hogg called it insincere and an effort focused only on saving her advertising base.

When Hogg called for the advertiser boycott, he had a list of what he called the top dozen advertisers on the show. Missing from the list was BMW.

Things get weird

BMW hasn't run ads on Fox News for about a year, since the sexual harassment allegations against Bill O'Reilly, according to AdAge. The company told the publication that even when it had advertised on Fox News, the ads never appeared on Ingraham's show.

MediaMatters pulled together a list of 119 brands that had advertised on the show recently. BMW wasn't on it.

However, when cyber pitchforks emerge and virtual mobs stir, facts don't necessarily mean a thing. For some reason, some people with a following decided that BMW had been an advertiser and then started giving it grief.

It's hard to find exactly where BMW became the target. Maybe it was when CNN anchor Jack Tapper tweeted, "The notion that BMW is boycotting anyone else is interesting," and added a link to an article about the company's apology for its World War II links to the Nazis, as AdAge reported. Godwin's Law of Nazi Analogies -- "As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Hitler approaches one." -- was immediately in play. (I wonder if that's an Internet record.)

Tapper's post was apparently deleted, although it's impossible to say whether by him or someone like a social media manager with access to the account. Reactions to the tweet remain on Twitter.

Published on: Apr 3, 2018