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The truth about Budweiser
Trans activist Dylan Mulvaney recently partnered with Bud Light to promote the popular beer brand. With over 10 million followers, Mulvaney is best known for chronicling her gender transition in her TikTok series, Days of Girlhood. To commemorate the one-year anniversary of Mulvaney’s transition, Bud Light recently sent her a custom pack of beer that featured the influencer’s face. On April 1, Mulvaney used the bespoke cans in a video to advertise Bud Light’s March Madness contest.
This gesture, however, quickly sparked an anti-trans backlash and calls for a boycott from right-wing media figures.
Conservative personalities Charlie Kirk and Matt Walsh declared that they want to “put Budweiser out of business.” Townhall columnist Derek Hunter tweeted “@budlight: the groomer of beers.” Another right-wing pundit, Aaron McIntire, called Mulvaney “mentally ill” and said Budweiser “desecrated” its can by including her image.
These anti-trans attacks have also been amplified by U.S. lawmakers. Representative Dan Crenshaw (R-TX), posted a video announcing that he was “going to throw out every single Bud Light we have in the fridge” after learning of Bud Light’s “stupid ad campaign” with Mulvaney. Representative Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-GA) also joined in and tweeted a picture of Coors Light, with the caption: “I would have bought the king of beers, but it changed it’s [sic] gender to the queen of beers.” (“King of Beers” is Budweiser’s slogan)
Meanwhile, others responded more violently. The musician Kid Rock published a video of himself donning a MAGA hat and opening fire on three cases of Bud Light with a semi-automatic rifle. Turning back to the camera, he tells viewers “F–k Bud Light, and f–k Anheuser-Busch.” There was even a report that employees of an Anheuser-Busch distributor were “personally threatened,” prompting the cancellation of a highly anticipated appearance of the Budweiser Clydesdales in Missouri. According to the distributor, all showings were canceled “due to safety concerns for their employees.”
Anheuser-Busch, the parent company of Budweiser, defended its decision and told Rolling Stone that the company “works with hundreds of influencers across our brands as one of many ways to authentically connect with audiences across various demographics.” The spokesperson explained that “this commemorative can was a gift to celebrate a personal milestone and is not for sale to the general public.”
Amid the backlash, some have pointed out that “Bud Light has historically demonstrated support for the LGBTQ community.” Budweiser has also been credited for sponsoring “a number of LGBTQ+ events” and for releasing “a special rainbow-colored bottle for World Pride” to raise money for the LGBTQ+ advocacy organization GLAAD. In 2021, Michelob Ultra, another brand under Anheuser-Busch, partnered with CeCé Telfer, the first publicly out transgender woman to win an NCAA title. Last year, Anheuser-Busch was also designated a “Best Place to Work for LGBTQ+ Equality” by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC). The company even boasts a 100% rating on the HRC’s 2022 Corporate Equality Index.
But, while the company may be perceived as an LGBTQ ally, its corporate PAC activities suggest otherwise. Over the last few years, the brewing giant has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars supporting the campaigns of anti-LGBTQ politicians at the federal and state level.
Moreover, the beer conglomerate spends around $7 billion dollars on sales and marketing. The partnership with Mulvaney likely constitutes a very small fraction of this budget. It also likely pales in comparison to the company’s financial support of anti-LGBTQ politicians who push for — and, in some cases, have successfully enacted — policies that actively harm LGBTQ communities.
Budweiser spends donates hundreds of thousands of dollars to anti-LGBTQ politicians
Last June, a Popular Information investigation revealed that Anheuser-Busch donated a total of $366,500 to anti-LGBTQ politicians between January 2021 and May 2022. This includes $197,500 in donations to members of Congress that received a zero rating on the Congressional scorecard produced by the HRC and $54,000 to state lawmakers in South Carolina and Florida who were involved in passing anti-LGBTQ legislation. It also includes $65,000 to the Republican State Leadership Committee (RSLC) and $50,000 to the Republican Governors Association (RGA), two organizations that support anti-LGBTQ state legislators and governors.
Since then, Anheuser-Busch has donated an additional $66,190 to the RSLC and $55,000 to the RGA. In 2020, the company donated $95,000 to the RGA and $2,500 to the RSLC. Since 2020, Anheuser-Busch has also donated $310,265 to the Republican Attorneys General Association (RAGA), which supports candidates that oppose LGBTQ rights.
In February 2021, Anheuser-Busch donated $50,000 to Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R), who signed the Parental Rights in Education Act, which critics dubbed as “Don’t Say Gay,” into law in March 2022. Anheuser-Busch also donated an additional $25,000 to DeSantis in December 2020.
The “Don’t Say Gay” law prohibits Florida teachers from discussing “sexual orientation or gender identity” in class, including any discussion of “sexual orientation or gender identity” through the third grade and any discussion in other grades “that is not age-appropriate or developmentally appropriate for students.”
Since its passing, several schools in Florida have cited the law when justifying removing books with LGBTQ characters from their libraries, despite the fact that DeSantis claims that this is a “false narrative” and does not fit in the scope of the law. Now, the DeSantis administration is moving to expand the law to prohibit instruction of “sexual orientation and gender identity” in all grades.
Since “Don’t Say Gay” was signed into law, Anheuser-Busch has also donated an additional $2,000 to two co-introducers of the bill, Florida Representatives Stan McClain (R) and Tyler Sirois (R). Anheuser-Busch donated $1,000 to each representative on March 6, 2023.
At least one of the politicians criticizing Anheuser-Busch has also received donations from the company. Anheuser-Busch has donated $3,000 to Crenshaw, donating $1,500 on both December 15, 2021 and September 8, 2022.