"The groomer of beers": Conservatives vow to boycott Bud Light over partnership with trans activist

Clad in a MAGA hat, Kid Rock went so far as to shoot cases of the light beer. He had tears in his eyes

By Ashlie D. Stevens

Food Editor

Published April 7, 2023 5:30AM (EDT)

A general view of Bud Light beer cans sitting on the ledge of the glass is seen during an NHL hockey game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 28, 2022. (Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
A general view of Bud Light beer cans sitting on the ledge of the glass is seen during an NHL hockey game between the Toronto Maple Leafs and the Detroit Red Wings on Nov. 28, 2022. (Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

"Grandpa's feeling a little frisky today," Kid Rock said at the start of a video he posted Tuesday on Twitter. Clad in a MAGA hat and sweatshirt advertising the first annual Kid Rock Fish Fry, there were also tears in his eyes.

"Let me say something to all of you," the musician continued, "and be as clear and concise as possible."

Kid Rock then spent the next seven seconds shooting an MP5 submachine gun at a display of Bud Light 12-packs he had ostensibly set up about 50 feet away. As cans of beer exploded — Kid Rock managed to leave an entire case unscathed — he turned back to the camera. "F**k Bud Light," he said, "and f**k Anheuser-Busch." Before the 35-second clip faded to black, he also flipped off the camera.

You may be wondering why the 52-year singer (or redneck cosplayer, depending on your persuasion) took the time to tearfully schlep a folding table topped with beer onto a field. Though Kid Rock doesn't offer an explanation in the video, it comes after other right-wing pundits have labeled Bud Light "the beer of groomers" over the brand's partnership with transgender influencer and activist Dylan Mulvaney.

It's the latest instance of a conservative public figure calling for a bad-faith boycott against a food brand they feel has been drafted into the culture wars. These boycotts are often comically short-lived, such as when former President Donald Trump called on his supporters to skip drinking Coca-Cola after the soda manufacturer spoke out against restrictive voting laws in its home state of Georgia — only for online sleuths to quickly point out a half-drunk bottle of Diet Coke on his desk just a few days later. Each week, it seems as though conservatives have a new nemesis, from Ben & Jerry's and Coke to M&M's and Oreo.

Because of the perceived futility of the culture war the right is waging, it's perhaps easy to dismiss Kid Rock's video as laughable. But as transgender individuals face increasing threats of violence and legislation that could result in them being barred from receiving supportive health care, it's clear that the message from Rock, as well as conservatives like him, is no joke.

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As Billboard reported, Mulvaney, who documented her transition in a viral "Days of Girlhood" TikTok series, teamed up with Anheuser-Busch to promote the brand's Easy Carry Contest.

"Happy March Madness!!" Mulvaney wrote in an Instagram post. "Just found out this had to do with sports and not just saying it's a crazy month! In celebration of this sports thing @budlight is giving you the chance to win $15,000! Share a video with #EasyCarryContest for a chance to win!! Good luck! #budlightpartner."

Mulvaney also revealed in her Instagram story that the company had sent her a single commemorative can with her face on it to celebrate Day 365 of her transition. As Miles Klee noted in Rolling Stone, this was a single can of beer featuring Mulvaney's likeness that "didn't even appear on the grid." In fact, "you had to look at her Instagram stories to see it."

"Apart from stumbling across this online ad, your typical Bud drinker would never know of such an endorsement," Klee added. "But prominent reactionaries currently engaged in a war on trans people have social networks that allow them to quickly amplify and exaggerate this kind of thing to each other."

Indeed, before Kid Rock had even posted the video, Fox News had amplified the purported controversy. Days later, the outlet published an article describing how "many people mocked Bud Light over the partnership."

Indeed, before Kid Rock had even posted the video, Fox News had already the purported controversy.

An earlier story published on April 2 included comments from conservative commentators pushing back against the alleged "gender propaganda," including John Cardillo. "Who the hell at @budlight thought it was a good idea to make a grown man who dresses like little girls their new spokesperson?" Cardillo asked on Twitter. "Brands have to stop listening to their woke creative teams and get in touch with their consumer demographics."

"Might genuinely be the weirdest thing I've ever seen in my life," said Stephen Miller, contributing editor of The Spectator. Derek Hunter, a columnist for Townhall, called Bud Light "the groomer of beers."

Anheuser-Busch told Fox News that the company works with "hundreds of influencers across our brands as one of many ways to authentically connect with audiences across various demographics and passion points." It added that Mulvaney's commemorative can "was a gift to celebrate a personal milestone and is not for sale to the general public."

Later, country singer Travis Tritt also announced that he planned to ban Anheuser-Busch products from his tour hospitality rider, referring to the list of requests an artist provides to concert venues, including food and drink.

"I was on a tour sponsored by Budweiser in the 90's. That was when Anheuser-Busch was American owned," he wrote on Twitter. "A great American company that later sold out to the Europeans and became unrecognizable to the American consumer. Such a shame."

"Other artists who are deleting Anheuser-Busch products from their hospitality rider might not say so in public for fear of being ridiculed and cancelled (sic)," Tritt continued. "I have no such fear."

It's far from the first time that a public figure on the right has vowed to boycott a product amid newfound allegations of wokeness. For example, after Oreo released a new advertisement depicting a young man practicing his coming-out speech — which was paired with a $500,000 donation to PFLAG — right-wing talking heads like Greg Kelly and Ben Shapiro said they would abstain from the snack. As Kelly put it in an unhinged Twitter rant, "I do not like gay cookies."

If this purported culture war feels cyclical — it is.

If this purported culture war feels cyclical — it is. Those events took place in April 2022, almost exactly a year ago to the day. (It's perhaps worth noting that Trump also called for his boycott of Coke in April 2021.) As I wrote in January while covering (once again) Tucker Carlson's ongoing rage aimed at M&M's for desexualizing its anthropomorphized candy mascots, conservative commentators like the Fox News host rely on said culture wars for content. Thus, it's incumbent upon them to fan the flames.

Carlson's gripes over whether he would still want to "have a drink" with the chocolate cartoon characters are superficial, however, in comparison to the discourse surrounding Mulvaney's partnership with Anheuser-Busch. By highlighting comments calling Mulvaney a "groomer," Fox News perpetuated a dangerous anti-transgender narrative to its audience.

Similarly, Kid Rock's tearful post may inspire a certain kind of superficial schadenfreude for some liberal viewers. It's an objectively ridiculous way to respond to a one-off beer advertisement. However, as right-wing personalities like Carlson stoke fears of alleged "trans terrorism," Kid Rock's gun-centered video takes on a much darker meaning.

As Billboard reported, Fred Guttenberg, the father of a child who was killed during the Parkland shooting in Florida in 2018, blasted the singer for "glorifying the kinds of war weapons often employed in mass shootings."

"Hey @kidrock, this dad is 'feeling a little frisky today,'" Guttenberg tweeted, sharing a post that showed his late daughter attempting to evade the school shooter. "Let me be 'as clear and concise' as I can with you. This is my daughter Jaime (under the black oval) and these are the students running over her for safety to avoid getting shot by the AR 15 that killed her. F–K YOU!!!"

By Ashlie D. Stevens

Ashlie D. Stevens is Salon's food editor. She is also an award-winning radio producer, editor and features writer — with a special emphasis on food, culture and subculture. Her writing has appeared in and on The Atlantic, National Geographic’s “The Plate,” Eater, VICE, Slate, Salon, The Bitter Southerner and Chicago Magazine, while her audio work has appeared on NPR’s All Things Considered and Here & Now, as well as APM’s Marketplace. She is based in Chicago.

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Bud Light Commentary Dylan Mulvaney Food Fox News Kid Rock Lgbtq Travis Tritt Tucker Carlson