This past week Ford Motor Company has had a taste of what it is like to “do business” with the likes of the extremist American Family Association. When a right-wing Dallas, Texas Ford dealer, Jerry Reynolds, put himself at the negotiating table on behalf of Ford last summer and helped delay a threatened boycott by AFA of Ford products, it would seem inevitable that the outcome would be the public relations disaster Ford currently has on its hands.
BTL’s discussions with a number of sources, including Ford’s official spokesperson, Mike Moran, Director of Public Affairs for Ford Motor Company, could not uncover a single quantifiable loss of benefits, workplace protections, or non-profit support that Ford has provided over the last decade to its LGBT employees or the community at large. In fact, all the reasons that the Human Rights Campaign honored Ford with a 100 percent Equality Watch rating just last week in its HRC Buyers Guide remain in place.
A two-pronged attack is in play by the AFA – one against the LGBT community and another at the economic underpinnings of the LGBT press. As a member of that press we have vested interest in this outcome. If Ford’s decision to pull some advertising from the gay press is, as they said, a “business decision,” we respect that. But to suggest that advertising decisions were based on anti-gay pressure is starting down a dangerous and slippery slope that could undermine more than just Ford’s credibility with the LGBT community.
Under pressure from losses on its balance sheet, Ford seems to have made an unfortunate, small-minded and ill-advised decision. To even have the appearance of negotiating with a group with an extremist track record like the AFA has caused a national uproar from fair-minded citizens.
We have no idea who was zoomin’ who in these backroom deals, if in fact there were any deals at all, but clearly not a single leader of the LGBT movement across the country or here in Michigan will accept anything less than a public disavowment of any deals being made with the AFA.
We understand that Ford is in the business of selling cars and was trying to push away any additional threats to its already sagging balance sheet. As Michiganders, we know only too well these days what the unemployment lines look like and what the challenges are to our core industry and our state’s overall well being. However, if Ford had input from fair-minded folks and had done a little homework, they would have told the AFA to go pound sand back in June when the boycott was first threatened. Not a single boycott ever orchestrated by the right wing, and especially the AFA, has had any quantifiable success. All Ford needed to do was call the folks at Disney for some reassurance.
Any consideration of a counter-boycott by lesbians and gays needs to be rethought immediately. We have not lost anything measurable so what exactly would we be asking to have reinstated? We need to be the fair-minded folks, previously missing from the table, who bring insight and reason to this discussion right now. The AFA thrives on this kind of attention. Let’s not give them more of it.
For any LGBT leaders who are considering a boycott of Ford, come to Michigan. See the hard-won benefits and donations the LGBT community has built and developed with Ford over the last decade before you work to dismantle this valuable relationship.
What we need to do now is have discussions with Ford management about this misstep and await a public apology. And our readers can let their thoughts be known directly to Ford management. All we have to do is remind them of their own policy, “Ford values all people – regardless of their race, religion, gender, sexual orientation and cultural or physical differences.”