Today is unofficially Chick-Fil-A Appreciation Day, though the appreciation has very little to do with fried chicken. Some conservatives, started by former Gov. Mike Huckabee (R-AR), wanted to show their support for Dan Cathy, president of Chick-Fil-A, and his stance on "traditional marriage."
What seems most puzzling was that while the controversy had been brewing for some time, nothing Cathy said recently was any different than what he has said in the past. The tone and words were a little different, but the message was the same.
Chick-Fil-A supports organizations fighting against gay marriage. Some see a distinction between this and being anti-gay; others don't.
The Muppets reacted as if they did not know what was going on. So did many others. And unlike in previous skirmishes, conservatives such as Huckabee, Rick Santorum, and Billy Graham decided to publicly support the restaurant chain.
As we noted in earlier coverage, Chick-Fil-A started this discussion after the chain expanded into markets not traditionally a part of the Chick-Fil-A experience. Not to pigeonhole people, but Southerners are more likely to be against gay marriage or at least live in a state where gay marriage laws weren't likely to be passed.
Moving up north and east was going to cause some friction, though the Chick-Fil-A folks seemed ready for that, bending over backwards to point out that the chain served all people and didn't discriminate against those eating in the restaurant.
The interview that provoked the latest battle went against what was the PR approach. And tensions escalated as a result.
Chick-Fil-A also suffered from a PR standpoint with bizarre accusations about kids were being injured by getting their fingers stuck in the Muppets toys. Yes, the implication was that the chain introduced that children were getting injured when they actually weren't. If that charge is true, Chick-Fil-A has a worse PR issue on its hands. A fake Facebook account from "Abby Farle" defended the restaurant chain. The restaurant chain denied any connection. Coincidences happen, but the timing doesn't help the chain.
I thought I was done writing about politics and Chick-Fil-A, figuring those who knew and chose not to go there had their beliefs and those who knew but still wanted to go to Chick-Fil-A would do what they wanted to do.
You don't know how McDonald's or Wendy's or Carl's Jr. feels about abortion or gay marriage or the Keystone XL pipeline. Chances are, you like it that way. But you also know that Chick-Fil-A, right or wrong, thinks it's more important to stand up. After all, the folks at In 'n' Out stand up for what they believe, and liberals like that.
The lone store in Chicago, the lone store in New York City, the potential second store in Chicago, the theoretical store(s) in Boston, and other locations in the upper Midwest and Northeast are very unlikely to be behind the same activities as their corporate headquarters. The same is true of Domino's, even though we knew a significant portion of the profits was going to anti-abortion activities.
Politics and food is more in the food itself than where some of the money goes. Chipotle gets a benefit for the kind of meats it uses and how those animals are raised -- this is where politics and food make more sense. Even then, using animals that are raised well shouldn't be a political issue.
Of the four possible groups, two of them don't really matter to this discussion:
-- Those who love Chick-Fil-A who don't support gay marriage or equal rights.
-- Those who would never eat in a Chick-Fil-A and support gay marriage and equal rights.
The attention has been on those who like Chick-Fil-A but are troubled about where their money goes. They have been paying more attention to this issue since they are more likely to read up on current events. Someone may have joined this group because they just learned about this issue with the recent publicity.
The fourth group is just kicking in: those who didn't care about Chick-Fil-A one way or another but suddenly rush in because they don't support gay marriage or they support conservatives.
Chick-Fil-A's kicked-in stance went from being an issue of religion to a level of discrimination. The PR collapse is remnant of Tom Cruise before the couch jumping versus couch jumping. (Obviously, the sudden death of Chick-Fil-A PR head Don Perry did not help.) Watching the company defend "traditional marriage" and having Jon Stewart read Biblical verses with marriages that no one would consider traditional in 2012 shows that even those who love the Bible don't always know what is contained within.
Dan Cathy went against the PR grain on a conservative talk radio show and discovered that people outside the secluded evangelical circle are paying attention. On Friday, a "kiss-in" protest will show Chick-Fil-A that their stance is all about love.
Chick-Fil-A has the right to believe what it wants to believe. The chain is putting its money in what it believes. People have the right to put their money in what they believe. We'll have to wait and see whether Chick-Fil-A's move will backfire. Pretty safe to say no other fast food chain will test that theory.