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Outrage escalates into public relations debacle for anti-gay Chick-fil-A

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

The fallout over remarks made by Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy last week, stating his opposition to LGBT rights, and in particular same-sex marriage, has turned into a public relations debacle for the Atlanta-based fast food chain.

Since the July 16 interview with the Baptist Press, where Cathy acknowledged that Chick-fil-A was “guilty as charged” regarding its millions of dollars in contributions to established anti-gay organizations, politicians in Boston, and now Chicago, have moved to block openings on new Chick-fil-A restaurants, while the chain said it was voluntarily removing Creature Shop toys from its kids meals over a “product issue,” but stated the move was unrelated to an announcement last week by the Jim Henson Company that it was ending its partnership with the chicken chain.

Among the latest developments, Chicago Alderman Proco “Joe” Moreno announced that he will block Chick-fil-A’s efforts to build its second Chicago-area restaurant.

“If you are discriminating against a segment of the community, I don’t want you in the 1st Ward,” Moreno told the Chicago Tribune on Tuesday.

Moreno called Cathy’s remarks “bigoted, homophobic comments,” and, in a statement to the Tribune said, “Because of this man’s ignorance, I will now be denying Chick-fil-A’s permit to open a restaurant in the 1st Ward.”

Chicago mayor Rahm Emmanuel indicated privately that he may support Moreno’s announcement, and was quoted as saying, “Chick-fil-A values are not Chicago values.”

Moreno’s announcement echos a statement by Boston mayor Thomas Menino last week, who vowed to block Chick-fil-A from opening a restaurant near the city’s “Freedom Trail,” a site directly across from City Hall.

In a letter released today — dated July 20 — Menino wrote:

“In recent days you said Chick-fil-A opposes same-sex marriage and said the generation that supports it has an ‘arrogant attitude.’

Now — incredibly — your company says you are backing out of the same-sex marriage debate. I urge you to back out of your plans to locate in Boston.”

[...]

“You called supporters of gay marriage ‘prideful.’ Here in Boston, to borrow your own words, we are ‘guilty as charged.’ We are indeed full of pride for our support of same-sex marriage and our work to expand freedom to all people. We are proud that our state and our city have led the way for the country on equal marriage rights…

There is no place for discrimination on Boston’s Freedom Trail and no place for your company alongside it.”

Politicians weren’t excluded from the terse reaction to Cathy’s remarks.

Late last week, The Jim Henson Company, the entertainment organization that traces its origins to the founding of The Muppets in 1958 by puppeteer Jim Henson, announced it was ending its affiliation with Chick-fil-A over the restaurant chain’s anti-gay sentiments.

The Henson company’s partnership with Chick-fil-A included selling its Creature Shop toys for the restaurant chain’s kids meals.

In a curious announcement Wednesday, Chick-fil-A responded that it was “initiating a voluntary withdrawal for our Jim Henson Creature Shop Puppet Kid’s Meal Premiums due to a product issue.”

Several of the chain’s restaurants posted a sign in the window claiming that the toys presented a “safety issue,” and that the “recall” was effective July 19, the day prior to the Henson company’s announcement.

Meanwhile, Gizmodo called the stunt “a lie that the company may be propagating with fake Facebook accounts of Chick-fil-a sympathists.”

“Instead of owning up to the fact that The Jim Henson Company stopped doing business with them because they’re overrun with bigots, the chicken sandwich company appears to have made fake Facebook accounts to defend its honor on the social network. How do we know the accounts are fake? Just check out this back and forth on Chick-fil-A’s Facebook page between real, breathing people and “Abby Farle”, a Facebook account that was made 8 hours ago by a chicken PR flack with a stock image of a teenage girl as her profile picture.”

The controversy has sparked a renewed campaign in the debate over same-sex marriage with Christian groups organizing support for Chick-fil-A while attacking LGBT advocacy groups.

Failed GOP presidential hopefuls, Rick Santorum (former U.S. Senator from Pennsylvania) and former Arkansas Governor and Fox News pundit Mike Huckabee, have been outspoken in their support for Cathy and the franchise.

Huckabee has encouraged people to patronize the fast food chain on Aug. 1, which he deemed “Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day.”

Santorum responded with, “I think Governor Mike Huckabee said it best when he wrote, ‘Too often, those on the left make corporate statements to show support for same sex marriage, abortion, or profanity, but if Christians affirm traditional values, we’re considered homophobic, fundamentalists, hate-mongers, and intolerant.’ … I am joining Mike in his effort to fight for traditional values. Please join me and Governor Huckabee on August 1 by eating at Chick-fil-A.”

Bryan Fischer, spokesman for the anti-gay American Family Association, has asserted that “the bullies at ‘Big Gay,’” the term he is now using to describe LGBT advocates, are “trying to go Ahmadinejad on Chick-fil-A, they want them wiped off the face of the map.”

“And they’re trying to present themselves as these innocent little victims, helpless and hapless, being picked on across the fruited plain. And they’re not. They are bullies. They are intolerant, they are vicious, they are mean, and they are after people of faith. There’s no ‘live and let live’ with the bullies at Big Gay. They don’t know anything about tolerance,” Fischer said.

“Let’s make it our goal to buy out every chicken sandwich that Chick-fil-A makes on August 1,” Fischer added, in support of Huckabee’s proposal.

Back in Illinois, LGBT advocacy group Equality Illinois on Tuesday kicked off a multi-faceted “Flick-the-Hate” campaign aimed at Illinois communities where Chick-fil-A has franchises.

Among its efforts, Equality Illinois has launched a petition urging universities and mall owners where Chick-fil-A has franchises to sever their ties with the chain.

The group is also encouraging Illinois residents to participate in an “Eat for Love Day” on August 1st, by supporting local LGBT-friendly restaurants.

And not to be left out of the debate, Brian Brown, president of the anti-gay National Organization for Marriage (NOM) angrily attacked Boston’s mayor:

“The hypocrisy is ludicrous. Menino, of course, is an outspoken promoter of same-sex marriage, just another out-of-touch politician ignorant of the fact that the American people have consistently rejected same-sex marriage at the ballot box,” Brown wrote on NOM’s blog.

“Luckily for Mr. Menino, the people of Massachusetts haven’t been allowed to vote on marriage; but they will be allowed to vote on him — and if he isn’t nervous, he probably should be,” threatened Brown.

LGBT advocacy groups are also promoting a nationwide “Kiss In” campaign planned for August 3, encouraging same-sex couples and LGBT supporters to “show their disdain for Chick-fil-A’s policies with public displays of affection in front of their restaurants.”

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34 more reader comments:

  1. Who gives a good cluck about CFA; their food is highly overrated and I think pretty uninteresting. Dan Cathy don’t like gays because we don’t eat there!

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 6:39pm
  2. They also claim they are the “original chicken sandwich” and that is untrue as well. BK is. Their lies just never stop.

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 6:39pm
  3. CFA lied about the toys being a “safety hazard” and then they lied about “big Gay” beating them up. This is SUCH a wonderful example of Christian Love….

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 6:41pm
  4. KFC is much, much better if you are going to eat this junk any way.

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 6:42pm
  5. Nicely said, Moreno. Chicago does not need that mentality !

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 6:43pm
  6. Love that chicken from POPEYES :)

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 6:44pm
  7. “Big Gay”? Really?

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 6:45pm
  8. I will not support them…they just take my monies an give to hate supporters…shows they like themselves only..

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 6:57pm
  9. Good, they deserve the bad press.

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 7:05pm
  10. OK I have seen 2 suggestions for aug 1 protest: 1. eat at KFC because they and Pepsi have stated support of equality. 2. Eat at an LGBTQ owned business. Are those our “marching orders”???

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 7:15pm
  11. “And they’re trying to present themselves as these innocent little victims, helpless and hapless, being picked on across the fruited plain. And they’re not. They are bullies. They are intolerant, they are vicious, they are mean, and they are after people of faith. There’s no ‘live and let live’ with the bullies at Big Gay. They don’t know anything about tolerance,” Fischer said.

    What a load of crap! Hypocritical much?! Chick-Fil-A is not a church. They serve the public. The money they get to donate to their hateful organizations come from the public’s money giving it over to them to pay for their goods and services. You damn well better believe the public has a right to choose not to patronize a business that takes their hard earned money and spends it on such hateful propaganda.

    To call them bully’s is preposterous and insulting! So your against homosexuality, fine! Whatever! The debate of same-sex marriage is A COMPLETELY DIFFERENT ISSUE ALL TOGETHER! That is denying civil rights to a group of people that you deem sinners. THAT IS UNCONSTITUTIONAL! YOU ARE THE BULLIES!

    When will this country wake up and realize how many lives they are destroying by his hate and bigotry! It’s not bigotry to disagree with someone, or to say your against homosexuality. But to deny civil rights because of that belief, THAT IS BIGOTRY!

    I applaud Boston and Chicago for their stands!

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 7:27pm
  12. I rather have 2 spicy breasts from Popeyes and I’m a gay male!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 7:31pm
  13. I think you are a sorry human being for the things you say about LGBTQ i hope everyone boycots your buisnesses!!!!!!!!

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 7:43pm
  14. You know in all this people keep saying ‘Christian values’ support people of the same sex not getting married, but what they don’t realize is that a lot of people are NOT Christians! Where is the separation of church and state? There are even more Christians who practice ‘Love thy neighbor.’ than ‘Lets bash the homosexuals. On top of that America is guilty of eating shellfish and wearing poly blends, which comes from the same book. People need to grow up and leave other people alone! Allowing same sex marriage is not going to force you into one!

    I used to love this place but I don’t want to eat there anymore because it’s run by a bunch of bigots.

    Live and LET LIVE!

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 7:51pm
  15. Chick-fil-a can EAT A DICK LOL. I don’t eat there anyway.why involve yourself in my life. What I do with MY LIFE has nothing to do with anyone else but me.

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 8:01pm
  16. See, I told you. Before long, the only people who will be buying chicken sandwiches from CFA will be Mike Huckabee and his mob. At over 1,000 calories a pop!

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 8:08pm
  17. If you can’t place nice Chick Fil A with all the other boys and girls, You might be asked to leave the playground! Kinda simple!

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 8:16pm
  18. any ways they have only unhealthy food.

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 8:23pm
  19. With a name like that, one wonders how its president is an uneducated moron…

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 8:40pm
  20. I’ve never had Chik-fil-a and I never will

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 9:20pm
  21. I’m pro LGBT and all… but really it’s a christian restaurant by choice, closed on Sundays. Why does everything have to be a big deal. If you don’t feel welcome, then just don’t eat there. I think LGBT has become the bully in this case.

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 9:39pm
  22. I never liked there crappy food anyway……the only good thing were the funny commercials.

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 9:47pm
  23. - It’s not as if Chik-Fil-A is benevolently giving away their food and pro-equality policies are malevolently getting in the way of their “Christian” charity. They are a business, and they take in money for the food they sell….and then they donate money and sponsorship to anti-equality organizations.

    Consumers have a right to choose where their money goes and what it winds up supporting – and since businesses have no explicit legal obligation to serve the greater public good overall (as is, by contrast, the defined purpose of government taxation and services), they are, with certain statutory limitations varying by region, free to practice and act on their preferences and principles in ways that most intelligent people now view as offensive and should-be-illegal. They have their arguable rights as private commercial entities…and we have definite rights, both individually and civically, as to whether we want them around (and thus choose to enable their funneling of money to anti-equality causes and political entities). Those are /real/ free market principles, people – that elective demand cannot be forced just to meet one company’s (or industry’s) brand of crap.

    And fundies, as we know, are pretty damn fond of calling boycotts when they don’t like what pro-equality or non-G-rated businesses are doing, so they really ought to stop whining about the shoe being on the other foot.

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 10:13pm
  24. It ‘s good to know that I have a bunch of unruly, homosexual thugs like Big Gay behind me. Makes me feel ……. empowered. I might just have inappropriate sex with my husband tonight.

    Posted on Wednesday, July 25, 2012 at 11:47pm
  25. i wish they wouldn’t have did this, i loved the peach milk shakes, but for my gay friends i’m going to boycott chick-fil-a

    Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 6:00am
  26. well it seem that certain business have to realize that there outdated points of view are no longer tolerated,kudos for chicago,boston and hope the boycott continues,

    Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 6:50am
  27. WOW!! Some folks are truly ignorant. Grateful for the support that is out there though!

    Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 7:32am
  28. never did like that place….SMH

    Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 7:37am
  29. I think it was soooo stupid for them to even say anything. I would fire whomever said it first because it is not good business sense in the first place.

    Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 8:32am
  30. I and my family have always been pro ANYONE, and I don’t usually go to Chick-fil-a but aren’t they allowed to their own opinion as we are? if they oppose gay marriage they have that right. If gay people are attacking them, aren’t they just as bad as them? I support gay marrige but I also support freedom of speech and freedom to make your own choice to believe in what you want to.

    Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 8:55am
  31. Darlene the Gay people are not using millions of dollars to keep them from selling there food or to make them work on sunday but chick fill A is using millions to stop gay people from there human right all in the name of religion freedom of speech not freedom to hate because we dont believe there way or follow there hateful ways of life they recalled all the toys because the Jim Hanson company did not jump on there hate wagon well speech is talking and using millions to show hate is not the freedom of speech but they clame to be a christian company but have to lie to the public yes this shows the real christian to me

    Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 9:20am
  32. READ THIS: On August 1st, Republican politicians are telling those who support Chick-Fil-A’s anti-gay policies to eat at one of their locations for “National Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day” to protest homosexual rights and show their Christian values. On the same day, the gay community has planned many counter protests to voice their opinion on the issue. As a homosexual Christian, I know that any protest will only make their dislike for us even greater. If you fight fire with fire, you will only get more fire. So instead of protest, I believe that we should do something that most of us do not do… pray.
    I am declaring on August 1st “National Gay Pray Day” where the gay community and its supporters pray not for things like marriage equality, but pray for acceptance, for this is the first step in our journey. This is what the LGBT community needs! Even if you are not a Christian, do not believe in God, or have never prayed before, now would be a good time to. Even if you do not believe in God or have never talked to Him, does not mean he will not listen. Together, through the power of prayer, God can help us make a change, because in his eyes love will always prevail over hate. So please, let us prove the “Christians” who spread the word of hate who the true Christians are! We can do this! Please share this, like it, tell your friends, and get the word out! Thank you, and good luck.

    Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 12:02pm
  33. Here is a petition asking Coca-Cola to stop partnering with Chick-Fil-A. Please sign and repost. We have already reached the first goal, and are trying to reach the next goal of 100 signatures. Please sign it and repost. Thank you all for supporting love and equality. http://signon.org/sign/coca-cola-should-cut.fb22?source=s.fb&r_by=2984535

    Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 1:42pm
  34. I refuse to eat at Chick-fil-A now, I know some people are against gay marriage, but if you look at the comments on the Chick-fil-A page it’s horrifying. There are comments like,”I hope the gays get AIDS and die, and marriage is between a man and woman, etc.” It makes me sick to know there are people in the year of 2012 that could still be full of so much hate. Rainbow pride all the way!!!!!! <3

    Posted on Thursday, July 26, 2012 at 7:44pm