By Lucas Grindley
Originally published on Advocate.com September 22 2012 12:25 AM ET
Chick-fil-A COO Dan Cathy spoke with Mike Huckabee on Friday to assure him that nothing has changed about his restaurant chain's antigay ways.
Huckabee is the organizer of the "Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day" that supposedly set a sales record for the fast-food company. The Fox News host and failed presidential candidate rallied thousands to defend a series of comments Cathy made, in which he called same-sex marriage "twisted" and seemed to cop to his company foundation's history of more than $5 million in donations to antigay groups by declaring cavalierly "guilty as charged."
Then a Chicago alderman named Proco "Joe" Moreno claimed he was finally going to relent and allow Chick-fil-A to expand to his ward because company officials had agreed to end donations to antigay groups and drafted an anti-discrimination statement that was sent to local operators. That statement, titled "Chick-fil-A: Who We Are," was posted on the company's website this week and set off backlash from those hordes of "Appreciation Day" believers. Now Cathy wants to clarify that, no, the company doesn't have any such agreement.
"There continues to be erroneous implications in the media that Chick-fil-A changed our practices and priorities in order to obtain permission for a new restaurant in Chicago. That is incorrect," he said in a statement posted on Huckabee's website. "Chick-fil-A made no such concessions, and we remain true to who we are and who we have been."
That seems to have satisfied Huckabee, who wrote in response, "I talked earlier today personally with Dan Cathy, CEO of Chick-fil-A about the new reports that Chick-fil-A had capitulated to demands of the supporters of same sex marriage. This is not true."
LGBT rights groups had already picked up that sentiment after reading the four-page internal memo that Moreno had claimed as evidence of Chick-fil-A's changed ways. Equality Illinois's CEO said he was "dismayed" by any inference the chain had changed. The Human Rights Campaign described the memo as "empty" words without action.
And multiple news reports pointed out that the memo's promise to treat everyone the same was basically the same thing the company had claimed in previous statements over the years on Facebook and elsewhere.
What remains unclear, though, is whether the Chick-fil-A foundation, called WinShape, has ended its giving to groups like Focus on the Family. Moreno said he had been shown internal financial disclosure statements that showed the money to the antigay groups had dried up during the last year.
For its part, Focus on the Family President Jim Daly responded to the allegation on one of the group's affiliated websites, denying Chick-fil-A had caved to pressure.
“Dan and Bubba Cathy are my Christian brothers and good friends," Daly said. "They and their company have long shared Focus on the Family’s commitment to helping build strong and thriving families — and they have in no way deviated from that deeply held and biblically inspired passion while working with the city of Chicago to open Chick-fil-A restaurants there."
If the message weren't clear already, Cathy himself tweeted a photo on Tuesday — as the supposed agreement was being touted — from a fundraiser called the "WinShape Ride for Family." The Chick-fil-A logo accompanies all of the publicity material for the motorcycle trip. And registrants were asked to send the $3,500 price of entry directly to the Marriage and Family Foundation.
Equality Matters identified that group as the top antigay recipient of WinShape's donations in 2010, getting more than $1 million. Although WinShape directed participants to send their checks directly to the group, it's also unclear whether WinShape itself is still giving the Marriage and Family Foundation money of its own.
After all, the group was founded by Dan Cathy's brother, Bubba, and it shares an address in Atlanta with Chick-fil-A headquarters.