Brendan Whitworth, CEO of Bud Light parent company Anheuser-Busch, issued a statement Friday addressing a recent transphobic boycott of Bud Light following an April brand partnership. The brand came under fire from conservatives last week after a social media partnership with trans activist and TikTok creator Dylan Mulvaney.
Conservative celebrities, including Kid Rock and Travis Tritt, fueled the boycott via posts on their social media platforms.
Ten days after the initial backlash began, Whitworth issued the company’s first public statement:
As the CEO of a company founded in America’s heartland more than 165 years ago, I am responsible for ensuring every consumer feels proud of the beer we brew.
We’re honored to be part of the fabric of this country. Anheuser-Busch employs more than 18,000 people and our independent distributors employ an additional 47,000 valued colleagues. We have thousands of partners, millions of fans and a proud history supporting our communities, military, first responders, sports fans and hard-working Americans everywhere.
We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people. We are in the business of bringing people together over a beer.
My time serving this country taught me the importance of accountability and the values upon which America was founded: freedom, hard work and respect for one another. As CEO of Anheuser-Busch, I am focused on building and protecting our remarkable history and heritage.
I care deeply about this country, this company, our brands and our partners. I spend much of my time traveling across America, listening to and learning from our customers, distributors and others.
Moving forward, I will continue to work tirelessly to bring great beers to consumers across our nation.
VP Pro Take
“Look, this was never going to be easy for ABI to tiptoe its way through. But it’s hard to understand why the company thought centrist palaver like this would make it better. I think it’s worse than saying nothing, I really do. On substance, it’s thin as hell, with not a single mention of Dylan Mulvaney, or the LGBTQ+ community. Not only does that make it look like the brewer is walking back its stated DEI commitments — flip-flopping that’ll alienate both progressive consumers AND progressive employees — but this statement features no bowing and scraping to conservatives, either, which media figures on the right will pounce on as arrogant and out-of-touch with Real America™️. It’s also shockingly tone-deaf!
From the kumbaya title to the vapid tropes of jobs, troops, and sports, to the glaring lack of support for the marginalized communities that ABI’s brands have been all too happy to incorporate into their advertising in the past, this statement indicates ABI believes reconciliation is still on the table, which is just a fundamental misreading of the American moment. (Not to mention an implicit betrayal of trans people, whose political erasure it has abetted via its considerable political donations to anti-trans lawmakers in recent years.) This country is way past the aw-shucks “let’s all have a beer together” cultural milieu. That might have worked in 2009, or even in 2015, pre-Trump. The paradigm has shifted irreversibly since, and there’s no way for a corporation like ABI to both-sides its way out of a situation this controversial. The company just tried to ride the fence, and it’s gonna get splinters in its ass.
Here’s one more thing I want to mention: As a clean-cut, good-looking former Marine, Whitworth might have had a shot at deflating this situation by getting out in front of it a week ago, and staying there. That profile might have won him a sympathetic ear with the Fox News crowd before this thing really got ripping. By hanging back and letting female employees take very public, very bigoted heat, he missed the moment — and ABI’s best chance to nip this thing in the bud.” — Dave Infante, VinePair columnist and contributing editor
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