If quality is job 1, where does truth fit in?

Like Microsoft before it, Ford says that its distance from gay issues is just business.

By Tim Grieve
Published December 6, 2005 2:52PM (EST)

When Microsoft caved into pressure from Christianists earlier this year and withdrew its support of gay-rights legislation in the state of Washington, it explained away its decision by claiming that it was just a business decision made by its government-affairs department. "We made a decision before this legislative session, as we do each year, that we would focus our energy on a limited number of issues that are directly related to our business," Microsoft said.

We were reminded of that line as we read this morning's New York Times report on Ford's decision to pull most of its advertising from gay publications in the face of a threatened boycott by the American Family Association. The explanation a Ford spokesman gives the Times today: It was just a business decision made by Ford's advertising department. "As they begin planning their marketing for next year, they've streamlined their budgets," Ford's Mike Moran tells the Times.

As John Aravosis notes at AMERICAblog, that's not exactly how Moran characterized the decision in an initial interview with the Advocate last week. In a statement announcing the cancellation of the boycott, AFA President Donald Wildmon said that Ford had "heard our concerns" and "responded, we think, in a very positive way." When the Advocate first contacted Ford's Moran about the advertisements in gay publications, he "referred Advocate.com to the AFA statement, suggesting that the company had no disagreement with Wildmon's assertions." But in a second conversation, Moran began toeing the line Ford is pushing now: The decision to pull ads for Jaguar and Land Rover from gay publications is about business, not boycotts.

Microsoft eventually reversed course a second time on its support for gay-rights legislation, and activist groups are now pushing Ford to do the same. Human Rights Campaign President Joe Solmonese gives Ford some room to change its mind while saving face with this comment in today's Times: "I can only hope that this is a case of a large corporation, and the left hand not knowing what the right hand is doing, and this will in very short order be cleared up."

Tim Grieve

Tim Grieve is a senior writer and the author of Salon's War Room blog.

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