Anheuser-Busch’s US CEO Brendan Whitworth faced intense questioning in a recent television interview regarding Bud Light’s controversial partnership with transgender influencer, Dylan Mulvaney, and the company’s stance on LGBTQ rights. The collaboration sparked a social media firestorm and has resulted in significant sales drops for Bud Light and its associated brands.
Grilled on “CBS Mornings” about the perceived error in partnering with Mulvaney, Whitworth defended the move as “a gift and it was one can.” When the hosts pushed him for a clearer stance on the potential of future collaborations with Mulvaney and Anheuser-Busch’s position on queer rights, Whitworth was deliberately ambiguous, remarking, “There’s a big social conversation going on right now,” and “Bud Light doesn’t belong in this divisive conversation.”
The company has faced criticism over its donations to anti-LGBTQ politicians, despite boasting a 25-year history of supporting the LGBTQ community. To this, Whitworth stated, “We support politicians who support our business and allow us to grow.” The company has attempted to distance itself from the controversy, with Mulvaney’s April 1 social media posts causing ripple effects across its brands, including Budweiser and Michelob Ultra.
Whitworth acknowledged, “Everything we do I’m accountable for,” and noted that Anheuser-Busch is tripling its investment in the Bud Light brand this year, while offering financial support to its distributors. Bud Light sales, however, continue to see a significant decline, with the week ending June 20 marking a 28.5% drop in sales from a year ago.
Early in the controversy, Anheuser-Busch did not disavow its partnership with Mulvaney, stating it was part of many such promotional partnerships meant to “authentically connect with audiences across various demographics and passion points.” However, the backlash continues to impact the company’s 65,000 employees and distributors who are facing mockery, threats, and a decrease in income due to falling sales.