Tipping Point? Woke Brands Back Off Pride Month As American Fury Grows
By Suzanne Bowdey/Washington StandJune 06, 2023
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For most CEOs, Pride Month couldn't have come at a more inopportune time. As companies like Target, Bud Light, and others desperately try to control the flames burning down their brands, this annual test of LGBT loyalty is putting most businesses in a position they'd rather not be in: outraging an already agitated consumer base or ticking off the lobby they've worked two decades to appease. Faced with the choice of becoming unprofitable or politically unacceptable, what will the big companies do?
Already, Newsweek is pointing out the surprising hesitancy of otherwise woke brands to go all in on June 1. After plastering the rainbow and progress flags across their platforms last year, North Face, Lego, and Miller Lite were unusually quiet on the social media front this time.
"Other brands -- such as Target, Bud Light and Adidas -- have yet to post, despite doing so in June of last year," reporter Aleks Phillips points out. Not surprisingly, all three are facing blistering criticism after either replacing women with trans-identifying men or aggressively marketing gender confusion to kids. "Of the accounts reviewed by Newsweek, only Kohl's and PetSmart had defied critics so far in posting Pride Month content."
"They're feeling the pinch," Family Research Council President Tony Perkins acknowledged on "Washington Watch." Target and Bud Light are significantly cratering, with Anheuser-Busch scraping and clawing for any idea that would bring them back to solvency.
Target CEO Brian Cornell, who bragged that the stores' controversial "tuck-friendly" swimwear and other trans merchandise was "great for our brand," is eating those words this week after their stock was officially downgraded by JP Morgan after an astonishing $12.4 billion in losses. "I really think we should help them out and downgrade the stock even further by refusing to shop there," Perkins insisted.
"I do think we're at a tipping point," he said to Dr. Albert Mohler, president of Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, on Thursday. "It's one thing to push the whole LGB agenda," Perkins insisted, "But this transgender thing ... is a bridge too far. ... Americans are seeing their children and grandchildren transformed by this ideology. And it's frightening. ... And when you have corporate America jumping on the bandwagon, pushing this, and it's in your face at every turn, then this becomes a different moment."
Mohler, like most people, can't understand why major American corporations aren't counting the cost of their social extremism. Everyday people "aren't buying ... the revolutionary stuff they're selling," he insisted. And yet, even Anheuser-Busch, who's taken an absolute beating on Wall Street since its partnership with Dylan Mulvaney, can't bring itself to cut those controversial ties.
Just last week, in the midst of one of the biggest PR scandals of the century, leaders poured gas on the fire with another $200,000 donation to the National LGBT Chamber of Commerce. This, after losing an eye-popping $27 billion since April.
"That's a huge number," Stephen Soukup shook his head. "I saw a story earlier today that Bud Light is selling for $.14 a can. ...You have distributors ... who are turning in their franchise credentials because they can no longer make a living distributing Anheuser-Busch products. ... This is pretty much unprecedented in American consumer behavior," he said, "and it's really caught a lot of people off guard and has done a lot of damage to some of these companies."
"Target is struggling as well," "The Dictatorship of Woke Capital" author told Perkins on "Washington Watch" last week. "They've had their roughest week in the markets in probably a decade. You know, shareholders are selling saying that we don't want to be part owner of a corporation that cares less about us than it does about pressure groups."
Soukup believes brands need to take a much more cautious approach to their activism, especially on this issue. "My advice to businesses would be eschew the entire woke capital complex and say, 'Look, we're not playing that game anymore. We're not political. What we want to do is make the best widgets we can. We want to be the best business that we possibly can, do the best for our employees, do the best for our customers, and especially do the best for our shareholders.' They should be getting out of the game of politics all together."
Amazingly, though, even brands with deep Christian roots seem content throwing their values overboard. News that Chick-fil-A, a favorite chain of conservatives, had embraced the diversity, equity, and inclusion fad, came as a big blow to families, who'd believed that this longtime holdout could weather the cultural storm.
"Their woke roosters have come home to roost," Perkins warned about the Cathys empire. "But this is not new," he pointed out. "... Over the last decade, [they've been] backing further and further away, even to the point of funding groups that have Drag Queen Story Hours. [They've] funded the Southern Poverty Law Center and cut off all Christian organizations like Salvation Army because their views on marriage were too 'radical.'"
Of course, Perkins said, "It's even more offensive when an organization that has prospered off of its Christian holdings and drawn in Christians then walks down this same path. Maybe [it's] not as bad as Target. I mean, you're not blinded by rainbow flags when you walk in, but it's a betrayal, quite frankly."
Mohler agreed, hoping that "sounder policies will prevail at Chick-fil-A." But until then, he urged, "Christians need to say, 'We really are not going to do business with a company that violates and flaunts its violation of what we believe is Christian morality."' And while we "don't have a choice as to whether we pay our taxes [which finances plenty of objectionable things] we do have a choice about where we buy our socks," the seminarian insisted.
"And it turns out that, these days, that can be a pretty powerful moral question. And so I want to affirm what you're saying here. We are stewards, and it is required of stewards that they be found faithful. And that means that we can't live in willful ignorance of what these companies are putting right in our face." That's why, he believes, "We've reached a really crucial moment."
A moment, Perkins believes, that the church's years of silence and acquiescence has led to. "I wish we didn't have to be at this point, but I am somewhat encouraged that people still have enough resolve to push back."
And push back they have, running from brands like Anthropologie, Adidas, Anheuser-Busch, Calvin Klein, Disney, Hershey, Jack Daniels, Kohl's, Lego, Levi Strauss, Maybelline, Nike, North Face, Sports Illustrated, Starbucks, and Target, whose in-your-face transgender advocacy has millions of Americans taking their business elsewhere.
It can be morally complicated, Mohler agreed, since no national corporation is probably "pure" in this area. "But at the very least," he said, "these companies that are so aggressive are hearing from Christians, 'That's the last product I'm going to buy from them.'"
Personally, Mohler said, "I believe all kinds of people will lie to me. But when they put the pride flag out front, I take them at their word. I think we know exactly what that means."