Far-right Republican U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and Marsha Blackburn are demanding that Anheuser-Busch end its relationship with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney, claiming she’s encouraging underage people to drink alcoholic beverages, and they’re also urging “oversight by Congress” in the matter.
Right-wing outrage exploded after Mulvaney posted a video to Instagram April 1 showing her with cans of Bud Light, which is made by Anheuser-Busch. One can had a picture of her on it as a celebration of the first anniversary of her transition.
Conservatives called for a boycott of Bud Light, two Anheuser-Busch executives were ousted, and anti-trans celebrities expressed their fury in a variety of ways, such as the video of Kid Rock shooting up cans of the beer.
Now Cruz and Blackburn, both with long anti-LGBTQ+ records, have gotten into the act. They have written a letter to Brendan Whitworth, who is CEO of both Anheuser-Busch and chairman of the Beer Institute, a trade association and self-regulatory body for brewers, urging an end to the Mulvaney partnership.
The letter, dated Wednesday, misgenders Mulvaney throughout. It contends that because Mulvaney is popular on TikTok, which caters to a young audience, having her promote Bud Light violates the Beer Institute’s policy against marketing to underage people.
“First, we write to ask that the Beer Institute’s Code Compliance Review Board open an investigation to review Anheuser-Busch’s recent and ongoing marketing partnership with Dylan Mulvaney,” the letter reads. “The Beer Institute must examine whether your company violated the Beer Institute’s Advertising/Marketing Code and Buying Guidelines prohibiting marketing to individuals younger than the legal drinking age.
“The evidence detailed below overwhelmingly shows that Dylan Mulvaney’s audience skews significantly younger than the legal drinking age and violates the Beer Institute’s Advertising/Marketing Code and Buying Guidelines. We would urge you, in your capacity at Anheuser-Busch, to avoid a lengthy investigation by the Beer Institute by instead having Anheuser-Busch publicly sever its relationship with Dylan Mulvaney, publicly apologize to the American people for marketing alcoholic beverages to minors, and direct Dylan Mulvaney to remove any Anheuser-Busch content from [her] social media platforms.
“Second, we believe that Anheuser-Busch’s clear failure to exercise appropriate due diligence when selecting online influencers for its marketing efforts warrants detailed oversight by Congress. To that end, this letter includes a series of document requests that will help clarify how Anheuser-Busch vets its partnerships and how Anheuser-Busch failed in assessing the propriety of a partnership with Dylan Mulvaney. Our document requests can be found at the end of this letter.”
Cruz and Blackburn point to the use of “girlhood” in Mulvaney’s videos, saying, “Mulvaney’s ‘Days of Girlhood’ series should have been the first red flag to Anheuser-Busch that it was entering into a partnership with an individual whose audience skews impermissibly below the Beer Institute’s proscribed guidelines.” They cite a video with Mulvaney dressed as a child, one of her shopping for Barbie dolls, and one of her handing gifts and cash to teenagers.
They go on to claim, “The Mulvaney/Bud Light campaign is starkly similar to the discredited and now illegal marketing campaigns of cigarette manufacturers that used youth-favored advertising tools such as ‘Joe Camel’ in an attempt to develop early brand loyalty with children who were legally prohibited from smoking cigarettes.” They also say, “Anheuser-Busch has a history of inappropriately marketing beer to individuals younger than the legal drinking age.”
“We ask Anheuser-Busch to: (1) immediately review all of their influencer relationships and sever any and all relationships with persons whose online personas violate the Beer Institute’s marketing standards, as Dylan Mulvaney’s clearly does, and (2) to ask that Dylan Mulvaney and all similarly inappropriate persons used by Anheuser-Busch in its marketing remove all Anheuser-Busch content from their online accounts,” the letter says near the end. “If your company fails to do so, we ask the Beer Institute to find Anheuser-Busch in violation of the Advertising/Marketing Code and Buying Guidelines and order them to sever their relationship with Mulvaney.”
The letter shows that “Cruz finally figured out a way to compress the culture-war fury — that a beer conservatives liked to drink didn’t treat transgender people as gross or nonexistent — into the constraints of appropriate legislative consideration,” Philip Bump writes in an analysis for The Washington Post.
The suggestion that the Mulvaney campaign means Bud Light is marketing to underage consumers is “a slightly less toxic version of the ‘groomers’ rhetoric that is so popular on the right, suggesting that kids are intentionally being set up for something nefarious,” Bump observes.
“None of this is really about Bud Light marketing to kids,” he concludes. That’s just the vehicle that Cruz finally settled on as a way to leverage his elected power to get headlines in the culture-war fight over transgender visibility in America. It worked.”