Chick-fil-A plays chicken
You might remember this post from earlier this summer, when it became public that the Cathy family’s WinShape Foundation had been making donations to anti-LGBT organizations. The furor that followed came from both sides, with anti-gay individuals lining up for chicken, while gay rights activists made out in protest in front of many Chick-fil-A locations.
Now that it’s September (mysteriously, just long enough for Chick-fil-A to peck out their sales numbers for July and August), John Featherston Jr., Senior Director of Real Estate for the chicken chain, released a statement to Chicago city Alderman Joe Moreno stating that Chick-fil-A will no longer make donations to organizations with “political agendas”. According to Mr. Featherston, “the WinShape Foundation is now taking a much closer look at the organizations it considers helping.” According to the New York Daily News, executives later clarified this statement, saying that WinShape will no longer donate to these groups at all.
You might recall that these groups included the benignly-titled Family Research Council, which was designated a hate group by the Southern Poverty Law Center in 2010. They’re pretty famous for backing phony research designed to defame gay parents by labeling them child molesters. This is in spite of the actual research that shows that assertion to be utterly false, and in some cases laughably so.
So yeah. Not donating to them is probably a good call.
Upon receiving the letter from Featherston, Moreno announced that he would no longer attempt to block new Chick-fil-A restaurants from opening in Chicago. The company even amended their non-discrimination policy, promising from now on to “…treat every person with honor, dignity and respect — regardless of their beliefs, race, creed, sexual orientation and gender.” This is refreshing and really makes equality advocates feel that they do have a voice, that our clout is increasing, that our families matter, and that businesses are adjusting to reflect that. It was amazing to hear this news yesterday – until this news hit.
Dan Cathy himself tweeted a photo on Tuesday of a fundraiser, called the WinShape Ride for the Family. This is a fundraiser against marriage equality for gay families. He tweeted this while attending the fundraiser. During the same week that he publicly stated that WinShape would no longer donate funds to any group with a political agenda. This ride no only has an agenda, it has the exact same agenda that brought all this bad publicity to WinShape and Chick-fil-A in the first place. So how is he getting away with this?
Well, he’s not. Not really. The Cathy family is talking out of both sides of their mouth by technically doing what they said they would do while still advocating for and funding groups that think gay people don’t deserve families. This particular event benefitted the Marriage and Family Foundation, formerly called the Marriage and Family Legacy Fund. It was founded in 2007 by…you guessed it…Donald Cathy. Instead of asking for donations to WinShape upon registering for the Ride for the Family, donations were solicited directly to the Marriage and Family Foundation. That way, WinShape gets to keep its word – it is indeed not funding the organization, individuals are.
So for one brief, glittery moment, it appeared as though enlightenment was coming. But both the Advocate and HRC picked up the story, and within a day or so, the real deal was exposed. And we’re disappointed, yes. But it seems that Dan Cathy may be sorrier than he realizes, and maybe even sorrier than we are. You see, he keeps making the same fundamental error – misreading the audience. For some reason, distant from the realm of social media reality, Cathy thinks that his intended audience is the only group who will ever know what he’s really up to. When he gave the original interview on July 16, he gave it to the Baptist Press. Apparently, he seemed to think that because he chose an outlet that was likely to have a sympathetic audience, he could say whatever he needed to say and everything would be peachy as a summer day. And I have to hand it to him. When he felt safe with his audience, he told them the truth. With that assumed audience, Cathy was honest, and that allowed the rest of us to see who he really is.
Not unlike this recent development.
Likewise, with this move, Cathy tweeted his participation in the event. He tweeted it. Are you kidding me? He made the mistake of not only seeming to think that only his supporters, who are the most likely to follow him on twitter, would see the tweet, but also of assuming that if anyone else saw it, they wouldn’t figure out what was really going on. If you’re LGBT, or someone who supports the LGBT community, he just gave up an amazing chance to win back your business. All he had to do was assume an intelligent audience, a wide audience, a real audience. But he didn’t, and instead now he has created an entire segment of the population that not only understands him to hate them personally, but also to believe them stupid.
And yes – donating to groups claiming that gay people are pedophiles and the greatest threat to children around is hate. Imagine the owner of a huge national chain donating millions to organizations that spew lies about Jewish people, or African-American people, or women, or – GASP – how about men? Imagine those groups growing funding pools into the hundreds of millions of dollars, and using it to tell others that any one of these groups are out to sexually abuse children. Imagine it being said about your friends. Members of your family. Imagine it being said about you. Would you give that company your money? Me neither. Now imagine that the same company announcing that they won’t do that anymore while continuing to do it, and expecting you not to notice. It reminds me of my childhood, when I would push my peas out all over the plate to make it look like I had eaten more than I really had. I made the same error Dan Cathy has. I assumed my audience was as short-sighted and lacking in insight as I was. But I was six.
Something to think about.