The Human Rights Campaign Foundation has revoked its top rating for Anheuser-Busch, the parent company of Bud Light, after the beer brand faced a boycott over its partnership with a transgender influencer.Embed from Getty Images
The foundation, which advocates for LGBTQ+ rights, informed Anheuser-Busch of its decision in a letter this month, following a previous letter in April that criticized the company’s response to the controversy.
The backlash started in early April, when Dylan Mulvaney, a popular TikTok star who has been documenting her transition online, posted a video on Instagram promoting a Bud Light contest and showing off a can with her face on it. The post sparked a wave of anti-trans comments and calls for a boycott from some conservative commentators and celebrities, including Kid Rock and Travis Tritt.
Anheuser-Busch initially responded with a statement explaining its relationship with social media influencers like Mulvaney, but later issued a vague statement from its CEO that did not address the issue or express support for Mulvaney or the trans community.
“We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people. We are in the business of bringing people together over a beer,” CEO Brendan Whitworth said in the statement titled “Our Responsibility to America.”Embed from Getty Images
Soon after, the company announced that two marketing vice presidents had taken leaves of absence.
The foundation said that Anheuser-Busch had missed a “key moment” to stand in solidarity with Mulvaney and the trans community, and that its actions showed “a profound lack of fortitude in upholding its values of diversity, equity and inclusion.”
“When we saw the company working with Dylan, that was a good sign. It was a sign of inclusion,” Jay Brown, senior vice president of programs, research and training at the foundation, told CNN. “What we were really disturbed by was the company’s reaction once the backlash started happening.”
The foundation’s decision comes at a time when trans rights are under attack by Republican lawmakers in several states, who have proposed bills to restrict health care access, sports participation and other aspects of life for trans people, especially children.
Mulvaney, who has more than 10 million followers on TikTok and has spoken with President Biden at the White House about trans rights, said she was an “easy target” for critics.
“I think going after a trans woman that’s been doing this for like 20 years is a lot more difficult,” she said on a podcast. “But what is their goal?”
Bud Light sales have declined since the controversy, according to some reports. The brand is still the best-selling beer in the country, but it faces competition from other brands and categories, such as hard seltzer and craft beer.
Anheuser-Busch did not respond to requests for comment.
- Anheuser-Busch loses LGBTQ+ rating for missing ‘key moment’ to stand up for Dylan Mulvaney| New York Post| May 19, 2023
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- Anheuser-Busch, Bud Light beer maker, loses top LGBTQ+ rating over Dylan Mulvaney ad response| ABC7 News| May 19, 2023