Ron DeSantis threatens legal action over Dylan Mulvaney’s Bud Light video

The governor wants a state agency to investigate the beer company’s impact to state pension funds

Alex Woodward
Friday 21 July 2023 18:12 BST
Ron DeSantis suggests lawsuit against Dylan Mulvaney over Bud Light video

Following months of right-wing obsession with a 45-second Instagram clip posted by a transgender social media influencer, Ron DeSantis is considering legal action against Bud Light’s parent company in the wake of Dylan Mulvaney’s video.

In a letter to a state agency that manages retirement accounts for state workers, Florida’s governor suggested that InBev “breached legal duties to its shareholders” by associating with “radical social ideologies”.

Bud Light beer sales have dropped after Ms Mulvaney’s video, posted to her Instagram account in collaboration with the beer company, with round-the-clock outrage from Republican officials and right-wing personalities who have filmed themselves dumping out beers, shooting bottles and cans, and pledging to boycott Budweiser products because a trans person was featured in marketing.

Florida will review the impact of that financial downturn on its pension funds – “all options are on the table,” Mr DeSantis wrote in his letter – though it’s unclear what the state can do to challenge the multinational company’s business decisions.

“When you take your eye off the ball like that, you’re not following your fiduciary duty to do the best you can for your shareholders, so we’re going to be launching an inquiry about Bud Light and InBev, and it could be something that leads to a derivative lawsuit on behalf of the shareholders of the Florida pension fund,” Mr DeSantis told Fox News host Jesse Watters on 20 July.

“Because at the end of the day there’s gotta be penalties for when you put business aside to focus on your social agenda at the expense of hard-working workers,” he added.

Mr DeSantis, who is pursuing the Republican nomination for president in 2024, has echoed those remarks in his letter to Lamar Taylor, the interim director of the State Board of Administration, on which the governor oversees the board, along with the state’s attorney general chief financial officer, all Republicans.

“We must prudently manage the funds of Florida’s hardworking law enforcement officers, teachers, firefighters, and first responders in a manner that focuses on growing returns, not subsidising an ideological agenda through woke virtue signaling,” he wrote.

Mr DeSantis has repeatedly invoked the state’s $235bn pension investments to attack other companies.

Last year, the governor pushed the state pension board to ban investors from considering the environmental or social footprint of a company or fund when deciding where to put Florida’s retirement assets – following a right-wing anti-ESG campaign against “woke capitalism”.

His administration also has signed a raft of measures targeting LGBT+ people and their healthcare into law, including a slate of bills and administration policies targeting gender-affirming care for minors as well as adults over the objections of major health organisations and LGBT+ advocates.

Anti-trans legislation and rhetoric have consumed right-wing media, state capitols across the country, and, increasingly, members of Congress, where lawmakers in Washington DC are mulling national bills and leaning into rhetoric that is dominating state legislative debate.

Trans rights are also likely to dominate GOP campaigns heading into 2024 elections, with major conservative conferences and stump speeches from Republicans focused squarely on pledging to impose national restrictions on transition healthcare.

Hundreds of bills aimed at LGBT+ people, particularly young trans people, have been filed in nearly every state within the last several years.

Mr DeSantis is far from alone in using the levers of government to go after Bud Light.

Republican Senators Ted Cruz and Marsha Blackburn have called for congressional oversight and an investigation into Bud Light’s marketing strategy.

In their letter from the Senate’s commerce committee that repeatedly misgenders Ms Mulvaney, the senators urged Anheuser Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth to “sever its relationship” with Ms Mulvaney, “publicly apologize”, and force her to delete “any Anheuser-Busch content” on her social media platforms, or submit to an investigation from a trade association.

Last Month, Ms Mulvaney said in a video responding to the backlash that Bud Light failed to support or even reach out to her as she faced a wave of threats and abuse.

“For a company to hire a trans person and then not publicly stand by them is worse, in my opinion, than not hiring a trans person at all,” she said in a video on her social media accounts. “It gives customers permission to be as transphobic and hateful as they want.”

Right-wing responses to the video brought her “more bullying and transphobia than I could have ever imagined,” she said.

“I patiently waited for things to get better, but surprise, they haven’t really. And I was waiting for the brand to reach out to me, but they never did,” she said. “The hate doesn’t end with me. It has serious and grave consequences for the rest of our community.”

The Independent has requested comment from InBev and Anheuser-Busch.

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