The CEO of Anheuser-Busch publicly responded for the first time to controversy surrounding a partnership between his company’s Bud Light beer brand and a transgender social media influencer.
“As the CEO of a company founded in America’s heartland more than 165 years ago, I am responsible for ensuring every consumer feels proud of the beer we brew,” Brendan Whitworth said in a statement. “We’re honored to be part of the fabric of this country.”
“We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people. We are in the business of bringing people together over a beer,” Whitworth continued, stopping short of apologizing. “My time serving this country taught me the importance of accountability and the values upon which America was founded: freedom, hard work, and respect for one another. As CEO of Anheuser-Busch, I am focused on building and protecting our remarkable history and heritage.”
“Moving forward, I will continue to work tirelessly to bring great beers to consumers across our nation,” Whitworth concluded.
Trans TikTok star Dylan Mulvaney revealed the parternship with Bud Light in series of videos on April 1. In one video, Mulvaney touted Bud Light cans featuring the influencer’s surgically feminized face. The company created the cans, which were not available for purchase, to celebrate Mulvaney’s “365 Days of Girlhood.” In another video, Mulvaney luxuriated in a bubble bath while sipping Bud Light.
Bud Light defended its partnership with Mulvaney from brewing backlash two days later, saying in a statement, “Anheuser-Busch works with hundreds of influencers across our brands as one of many ways to authentically connect with audiences across various demographics.”
On a podcast Tuesday, Mulvaney complained of critics: “These people, they don’t understand me, and anything that I do or say then somehow gets taken out of context and is used against me, and it’s so sad because everything I try to put out is positive. It’s trying to connect with others that maybe don’t understand me. It’s to make people laugh or to make a kid feel seen.”
Late last month, vice president of marketing Alissa Heinerscheid said on a podcast that she had a “mandate” to “evolve” Bud Light from a brand that was “fratty” and “out of touch” to one that was “representative” and “truly inclusive.”
The company has been moving away from its conservative roots for decades. “Bud Light has been a supporter of the LGBTQ+ community since the ’80s and we are excited to continue our long-standing partnership with GLAAD by collaborating with them on this new commemorative bottle that celebrates the LGBTQ+ community and everything GLAAD does to support it,” Bud Light’s vice president of marking Andy Goeler said in 2019.
Anheuser-Busch’s shift toward being “much more progressive” accelerated after the company, long run by the German American Busch family, was acquired in 2008 by Brazil-based international brewer Inbev, a veteran of the company recently told National Review.
Anheuser-Busch has lost several billion dollars in market capitalization since Mulvaney went public with their partnership.