Bud Light maker Anheuser-Busch is facing fury from both sides of the political spectrum over its partnership with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney.
The country’s largest LGBTQ+ advocacy group recently suspended the company’s benchmark equality and inclusion rating, citing its handling of the backlash to the partnership.
The Human Rights Campaign (HRC) informed Anheuser-Busch in a May 9 letter that it suspended the company’s 2022 Corporate Equality Index score, USA Today first reported.
The score measures companies on their corporate policies, practices, and benefits related to the well-being of lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and queer employees. Prior to the suspension, Anheuser-Busch had a CEI score of 100, the group’s top rating.
The furor began on April 1 when Mulvaney posted a video on Instagram cracking open a Bud Light to promote a March Madness contest. The brand also sent Mulvaney a commemorative can with her face on it to mark a year since her transition.
The beer brand’s partnership with Mulvaney sparked a hate-filled backlash from the right, including calls for a boycott of the brand.
Kid Rock posted a video of himself shooting cases of Bud Light with an assault rifle, while a Republican state senator in Missouri posted a video of himself smashing a can with a baseball bat outside the state’s Capitol building.
The beer brand’s sales dropped, with many recently mocking a promotional coupon. The fallout also led to two marketing executives at Anheuser-Busch taking a leave of absence.
Anheuser-Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth released an April 14 statement that neither expressed support for Mulvaney nor addressed the transphobic rhetoric perpetuated during the backlash
The company “never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people,” Whitworth said. “We are in the business of bringing people together over a beer.”
HRC called on Anheuser-Busch to issue a public statement expressing support for Mulvaney as well as transgender customers, shareholders and employees in an April 26 letter, according to the Associated Press.
HRC said it received no response from Anheuser-Busch, prompting the May 9 letter informing the company of its CEI score suspension.
According to the AP, Anheuser-Busch said Friday that the company remains “committed to the programs and partnerships we have forged over decades with organizations to drive economic prosperity across a number of communities, including those in the LGBTQ+ community.”
Newsweek has contacted the company for further comment via email.
Meanwhile, Senators Ted Cruz and Marsha Blackburn this week called for an investigation into Bud Light’s partnership with Mulvaney.
In a joint letter to Whitworth, who is also the chairman of the Beer Institute, the industry’s self-regulatory body, they asked that the Beer Institute’s Code Compliance Review Board open an investigation to review the company’s marketing partnership with Mulvaney over concerns the company “violated the Beer Institute’s Advertising/Marketing Code and Buying Guidelines prohibiting marketing to individuals younger than the legal drinking age.”
They said that Mulvaney’s audience “skews significantly younger than the legal drinking age.”
And earlier this week, a former Anheuser-Busch executive said the Bud Light boycott wasn’t going away and that the company should publicly commit to staying out of political issues. Anson Frericks, who spent more than a decade at Anheuser-Busch, said Bud Light’s appeal had been that it was “inoffensive” but that appeal was now gone.
In Alabama, a Bud Light distributor has been running a radio ad in a bid to bring back customers.
Bama Budweiser General Manager Steve Tatum told Newsweek that the ad was aimed at combatting a drop in sales at his company. “I felt like we had to get a message out there,” he said. “We are tied to a corporation, but that’s not necessarily our beliefs in our market here in Alabama.”
Mulvaney broke her silence on the backlash, posting a video to her Instagram page on April 28 where she thanked her supporters, but did not mention Bud Light by name.