Conservatives’ Favorite Chicken Wants Out of the Culture Wars

But is it too late?

National Journal
Elahe Izad
Add to Briefcase
Elahe Izad
March 19, 2014, 8:01 a.m.

Own a ma­jor busi­ness? You may want to think twice about com­ment­ing on con­ten­tious so­cial is­sues, be­cause your product could be­come an em­blem in the cul­ture wars. And that isn’t al­ways a good thing.

So thinks Chick-fil-A CEO and Pres­id­ent Dan Cathy, who now says he re­grets his 2012 com­ments about gay mar­riage, even though he hasn’t changed his per­son­al opin­ion about the mat­ter.

“Every lead­er goes through dif­fer­ent phases of ma­tur­ity, growth, and de­vel­op­ment, and it helps by [re­cog­niz­ing] the mis­takes that you make,” Cathy told The At­lanta Journ­al-Con­sti­tu­tion. “And you learn from those mis­takes. If not, you’re just a fool. I’m thank­ful that I lived through it and I learned a lot from it.”

Last sum­mer Cathy tweeted — and quickly de­leted — that he was dis­ap­poin­ted with a Su­preme Court rul­ing to strike down the De­fense of Mar­riage Act. But now he says, “Con­sumers want to do busi­ness with brands that they can in­ter­face with, that they can re­late with,” he con­tin­ued. “And it’s prob­ably very wise from our stand­point to make sure that we present our brand in a com­pel­ling way that the con­sumer can re­late to.”

Re­call how Chick-fil-A ended up on the front­lines of the cul­ture wars: Cathy told Baptist Press in 2012 that when it came to op­pos­ing gay mar­riage on re­li­gious grounds, he was “guilty as charged.” Nu­mer­ous groups called for boy­cotts. That in­spired a con­tra, pro-chick­en con­tin­gent, in­clud­ing former Arkan­sas Gov. Mike Hucka­bee de­clar­ing a “Chick-fil-A Ap­pre­ci­ation Day.” Chick-fil-A did enough busi­ness that day to set a com­pany re­cord.

It’s no secret that Chick-fil-A is owned by de­vout Chris­ti­ans; its com­pany policy is to close on Sundays, which it says “is unique to the res­taur­ant busi­ness and a test­a­ment to [the founder’s] faith in God.” But the com­pany has tried to dis­tance it­self from Cathy’s gay-mar­riage com­ments. And in 2012, its char­it­able found­a­tion stopped donat­ing to groups deemed by sup­port­ers of same-sex mar­riage as an­ti­gay. 

But it didn’t mat­ter. Some cit­ies, such as Bo­ston, moved to ban the chain any­way. A num­ber of col­leges have blocked or sus­pen­ded ties with Chick-fil-A, cit­ing Cathy’s com­ments and also past dona­tions to such an­ti­gay-mar­riage groups. The com­pany had be­come branded with an an­ti­gay im­age.

In­deed, the brand has be­come syn­onym­ous with something much more than cross-cut waffle fries. And folks on either side of the gay-mar­riage de­bate can’t con­trol it; it’s be­come a polit­ic­al tool to be wiel­ded by any­one who wants to, even in the most sin­is­ter of ways. The man who pleaded guilty to open­ing fir­ing at and shoot­ing a se­cur­ity guard at the Fam­ily Re­search Coun­cil in 2012 over the group’s stance on gay mar­riage had brought along 15 Chick-fil-A sand­wiches, with plans to “kill as many people as I could … then smear a Chick­en-fil-A [sic] sand­wich on their face,” ac­cord­ing to court doc­u­ments. That’s not the kind of press a com­pany, or so­cial move­ment, wants. Ever.

Des­pite ef­forts by the com­pany to ex­tract it­self from the gay-mar­riage de­bate, its sig­na­ture chick­en is still em­braced on the right to prove so­cial-con­ser­vat­ive chops. On most Tues­days on Cap­it­ol Hill, you can treat your­self to the free Chick-fil-A offered at the “Con­ver­sa­tions with Con­ser­vat­ives” pan­el, which fea­tures mem­bers of Con­gress.

No mat­ter for Cathy, who is at­tempt­ing to stay the course. He was asked by AJC to com­ment on pro­posed le­gis­la­tion in sev­er­al states, akin to the now-ve­toed Ari­zona bill that would have let busi­nesses deny ser­vice to gay and les­bi­an cus­tom­ers due to those busi­ness own­ers’ re­li­gious be­liefs.

Cathy didn’t bite. “I think that’s a polit­ic­al de­bate that’s go­ing to rage on,” he said. “And the wiser thing for us to do is to stay fo­cused on cus­tom­er ser­vice.” 

What We're Following See More »
PROBE CAME FROM INQUIRY INTO MANAFORT’S FINANCES
Mueller Investigating Tony Podesta and His Firm
3 hours ago
THE LATEST

"Tony Podesta and the Podesta Group are now the subjects of a federal investigation being led by Special Counsel Robert Mueller, three sources with knowledge of the matter told NBC News. The probe of Podesta and his Democratic-leaning lobbying firm grew out of Mueller's inquiry into the finances of former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort."

Source:
OFF TO MICHIGAN, SURPRISE TRIP
FLOTUS to Kick Off Anti-Bullying Initiative
4 hours ago
THE LATEST

"First lady Melania Trump is making good on a promise she made earlier this year to combat childhood bullying, taking a surprise trip Monday to a middle school in a Detroit suburb." She is bringing awareness to the problem with a campaign she found called #NoOneEatsAlone, which encourages kids to be inclusive.

Source:
SURPRISE VISIT
Tillerson in Kabul
4 hours ago
THE LATEST
WITHOUT NAMING HIM, CALLS OUT “BONE SPUR”
McCain Needles Trump on Vietnam
5 hours ago
THE DETAILS
SCHEDULED FOR TUESDAY
House Intel Will Interview Trump Digital Director
5 hours ago
THE LATEST

"President Donald Trump’s campaign digital director, Brad Parscale, will be interviewed Tuesday by the House Intelligence Committee, his first appearance before any of the panels examining the issue of Russian interference in the 2016 election. Mr. Parscale confirmed his scheduled appearance. The Senate committees also probing interference haven’t scheduled time with Mr. Parscale, he said, declining to comment further."

Source:
×
×

Welcome to National Journal!

You are currently accessing National Journal from IP access. Please login to access this feature. If you have any questions, please contact your Dedicated Advisor.

Login