The LGBTQ+ organization Human Rights Campaign (HRC) kicked Bud Light parent company Anheuser-Busch off the top of its corporate equality index (CEI), citing the company’s tepid response to the Dylan Mulvaney backlash.
“When we saw the company working with Dylan, that was a good sign. It was a sign of inclusion,” HRC senior vice president of programs, research, and training Jay Brown told CNN. “What we were really disturbed by was the company’s reaction once the backlash started happening.”
On April 1, Mulvaney posted a 50-second video to Instagram showing off some custom Bud Light cans with her face on them, a part of a brand partnership with the beer company.
Since then, conservatives posted videos as they dumped out Bud Light beer and shot up cases of Bud Light with semiautomatic rifles. Elected Republicans claimed that Mulvaney was a pedophile (without any evidence at all) and said that the global balance of power would be upset by Mulvaney’s Instagram video. Others said that they were boycotting Bud Light, often switching to other LGBTQ+-friendly brands.
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-TX) and Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-TN) opened a probe into the brand partnership, alleging it violated advertising rules because people under the legal drinking age might have seen the beer can video.
But Anheuser-Busch’s weak response to the backlash led to anger among LGBTQ+ people as well. The company released a statement in April saying that it “never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people… We are in the business of bringing people together over a beer.” And Anheuser-Busch CEO Michel Doukeris downplayed the partnership on a call with investors this month, saying: “We will continue to learn, meet the moment in time, all be stronger and we work tirelessly to do what we do best: Bring people together over a beer and creating a future of more cheers.”
Meanwhile, Mulvaney said she was “having trouble sleeping” after becoming the target of so much hatred for the past month and a half, leading to criticism that Anheuser-Busch left her out to dry. Some LGBTQ+ people – including Colorado Gov. Jared Polis (D) and several bars in Chicago – have been boycotting Anheuser-Busch as a result of their response to the controversy.
And now HRC is jumping into the fray.
HRC’s Brown said that the beer company’s lackluster response couldn’t have come at a worse time, as transgender equality is being targeted in state legislatures across the country. He said that he asked Anheuser-Busch to at least release a statement in support of Mulvaney and transgender people, offer inclusion training to executives, and listen to LGBTQ+ employees, but the company hasn’t done any of those things. In fact, two of the marketing executives who worked on the Mulvaney partnership have been put on leave, which many on the right are claiming as a victory of their Bud Light boycott.
After asking to at least talk to someone at the company, Brown sent a letter informing Anheuser-Busch that they were losing their 100% rating on CEI, which rates the “Best Places to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality.”
HRC has been maintaining the CEI since 2002, when it rated policies for gay, lesbian, and bisexual employees, and has expanded it in the last two decades to include evaluations of transgender employee policies, partner benefits, and how a corporation supports an inclusive culture outside of its own workplace.
HRC gave a 100% rating to the Fox Corporation until last year when it got demoted due to Fox News’s coverage of LGBTQ+ issues.