"Et tu, Chick-fil-a?": Far-right pundits turn on Chick-fil-A over diversity and equity initiative

A months-old update to the chicken chain's website has some conservative culture warriors crying fowl

By Ashlie D. Stevens

Food Editor

Published May 31, 2023 12:45PM (EDT)

The Chick-fil-A at the 'Chick-Fil-A Is Anti-Gay!' PETA and LGBT community protest at Chick-fil-A on August 1, 2012 in Hollywood, California. (Tibrina Hobson/FilmMagic/Getty Images)
The Chick-fil-A at the 'Chick-Fil-A Is Anti-Gay!' PETA and LGBT community protest at Chick-fil-A on August 1, 2012 in Hollywood, California. (Tibrina Hobson/FilmMagic/Getty Images)

After discovering a months-old update on Chick-fil-A's website about the company's diversity and inclusion initiatives, some ultra-conservative pundits have vowed to boycott the restaurant chain. 

As the Daily Beast's Brooke Leigh Howard reported on Tuesday, the executive director of Citizens for Renewing America, Wade Miller, tweeted that "everything good must come to an end" after discovering that several years ago Chick-fil-A had hired a director of diversity, who also happens to be Black. 

"Here @Chickfila is stating it's [sic] commitment to systemic racism, sexism, and discrimination. I cannot support such a thing," Miller tweeted.

According to Howard, Erick McReynolds had been promoted to Chick-fil-A's VP of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in November 2021. Starting in July 2020, he served as executive director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. 

So, he was hired a while ago for both positions, but what seemed to alert conservatives to his newest role at the company was an update to Chick-fil-A's website. On the page regarding their diversity and inclusion initiatives, corporate leadership writes they believe communities are "Better Together." 

"When we combine our unique backgrounds and experiences with a culture of belonging, we can discover new ways to strengthen the quality of care we deliver: to customers, to the communities we serve and to the world," it said. 

A statement from McReynolds is also included, which reads in part: 

Chick-fil-A restaurants have long been recognized as a place where people know they will be treated well. Modeling care for others starts in the restaurant, and we are committed to ensuring mutual respect, understanding and dignity everywhere we do business. These tenets are good business practice and crucial to fulfilling our Corporate Purpose. 

On Tuesday morning, Jeff Clark, an assistant attorney in the Trump administration, retweeted Miller's tweet about the chain with the caption: "Disappointing. Et tu Chik-fil-a?" 

However, as Howard wrote, "self-described political strategist, Joey Mannarino, took the cake with his unhinged take."

"It's only a matter of time until they start putting tranny semen in the frosted lemonade at this point," he tweeted. "I don't want to have to boycott. Are we going to have to boycott?" 

It's ironic, in a way, because conservatives have long viewed Chick-fil-A as being a company that has the same values as they do — and understandably so. 

"I don't want to have to boycott. Are we going to have to boycott?"

You probably remember in 2012 when Dan Cathy — who is the son of the chain's founder S. Truett Cathy and was the then-president and chief operating officer of Chick-fil-A — went on The Ken Coleman Show, a syndicated radio program and said he felt people were "inviting God's judgment on our nation" by supporting the legalization of gay marriage. 

Then on July 2, about a month after speaking on The Ken Coleman Show, Cathy spoke with the Baptist Publication, The Biblical Recorder,  and when asked about opposition to his company's "support of the traditional family," Cathy responded that he was "guilty as charged." 

"We are very much supportive of the family, the biblical definition of the family unit," he said. "We are a family-owned business, a family-led business, and we are married to our first wives. We give God thanks for that." 

He continued, "We know that it might not be popular with everyone, but thank the Lord, we live in a country where we can share our values and operate on biblical principles." 

This kicked off a series of protests against the company, as well as a number of queer "kiss-ins" at the restaurant. The statements — along with the company's long history of donating to anti-LGBTQ causes — left an incurably bad taste in many people's mouths. 

"Let's face it: despite what the company's president says, Chick-Fil-A is an anti-gay corporation," Tyler Coates wrote for BlackBook in 2012. "And, on that note, I'm just going to have to assume that anyone who spends their money there are completely fine with the fact that an anti-gay corporation not only exists, but pushes money to other groups to continue the widespread practice of discriminating against everyone in the LGBT community."

Chick-fil-A isn't the only 'conservative-coded' company that has drawn the ire of their fanbase in recent weeks.

Chick-fil-A isn't the only "conservative-coded" company that has drawn the ire of their fanbase in recent weeks. Prominent right-wing talking heads — ranging from Kid Rock and Travis Tritt to Dan Crenshaw and Ted Cruz — boycotted Bud Light after the band partnered with trans activist and actor Dylan Mulvaney for a March Madness Instagram post. 

And, as Salon Food reported, Bud Light is now simultaneously being investigated by the Senate and chastised by the Human Rights Campaign for their tepid response to the transphobia their campaign ignited. Bud Light entered the culture war fray without picking a side and in trying to please everyone, the beer brand angered everyone. 

Something similar may be happening here with Chick-fil-A, though on the surface, the timing looks a little suspect. As Howard reported, according to internet archives, it seems like the passage on Chick-fil-A's about being "Better Together" has been up since at least September (so for almost nine months). 

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Why are these pundits noticing it now? 

Well, leading up to Pride month, when all eyes are on companies and their respective responses to the mounting homophobia and transphobia across the United States — it seems like maybe they're looking for something fresh with which to anger their audiences, just as they've done again and again. And what's more bittersweet than when the target was someone or something you thought was one of your own? Let's see how long this boycott lasts. 

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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