U.S. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, who spent much of the last four years defending Donald Trump, has taken up a new cause now that Trump’s out of office: defending Chick-fil-A.
The Republican politician has sent a series of outraged tweets because some students and staff at the University of Notre Dame in Indiana don’t want a Chick-fil-A located on campus. They object to the restaurant chain’s donations, through its foundation, to anti-LGBTQ+ groups as well as to the personal donations to such groups by its CEO, Dan Cathy.
“Even though Chick-fil-A has halted the worst of its donations, patronizing Chick-fil-A means lining Cathy’s pockets,” students Tilly Keeven-Glascock and Joey Jegier wrote in a letter published June 28 in The Observer, a Notre Dame student newspaper. They also noted that a fried chicken restaurant wouldn’t add to the diversity of campus dining options or serve the needs of vegetarians and vegans.
They encouraged readers to sign their open letter opposing Chick-fil-A, which is among several restaurants Notre Dame Campus Dining is considering. About 180 people have signed so far, Fox News reported in a post reflecting its own outrage against those who don’t like Chick-fil-A.
Graham shared the Fox News story on Twitter Wednesday and commented, “I want everyone in South Carolina and across America to know I have Chick fil-A’s back. I hope we don’t have to, but I will go to war for the principles Chick fil-A stands for.”
That led to some stinging replies, such as “In which we learn that Lindsey’s hill to die on is a fast food restaurant” and “As if there's not enough falling apart in SC, you have to get your panties in a wad over chicken sandwiches in Indiana.” Others have pointed out that Notre Dame is a private enterprise, free to choose to do business with any company — or not.
Several other college campuses and public entities have barred Chick-fil-A from their spaces, such as Rider University in New Jersey and airport management authorities in Texas and upstate New York. When the San Antonio City Council in March 2019 rejected a Chick-fil-A for that city’s airport, conservative Texas legislators were so incensed they passed what became known as the “Save Chick-fil-A Bill,” preventing the state or its cities and counties from “punishing” individuals or businesses because of their membership in or donations to religious organizations, including anti-LGBTQ+ ones. Gov. Greg Abbott signed it into law that June, too late to save the San Antonio airport location but protecting the chain elsewhere in the state. Now, with rest areas on the New York State Thruway being remodeled, some Empire State lawmakers want Chick-fil-A out. Graham apparently hasn’t heard about that.
Also, it’s not clear that Chick-fil-A has stopped “the worst of its donations.” In 2019 an executive gave an interview saying no donations were currently going to anti-LGBTQ+ groups, then said, “No organization will be excluded from future consideration.”