By Jim Bleyer
I want to meet the crisis counseling consultants on retainer for Publix. Whatever they are being paid, they are worth every cent.
The grocery chain didn’t just dodge a bullet; it avoided hundreds of rounds from an AR-15.
After protests and boycott threats from gun control advocates extending throughout Florida and into other Southeastern states where Publix has a presence, the Lakeland-based company announced last Friday it would suspend contributions to political candidates.
Triggering the Publix move was David Hogg’s call for a “die-in” at the Publix outlet in Parkland where 17 Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School students were killed in a hail of gunfire in February. Hogg, a shooting survivor and student activist, was troubled by Publix donations of more than a half million dollars to Secretary of Agriculture Adam Putnam’s gubernatorial campaign. Putnam is an unabashedly pro-gun, pro-NRA Republican.
The “concession” amounts to nothing but most of the protestors declared victory. That group consists of those who hungered for any sort of “win,” the willfully ignorant, and worst of all, pro-gun control shoppers with a Publix addiction who used the suspension as cover to ditch their announced intention to participate in the boycott.
Shoppers clearly uncomfortable from the outset at avoiding their beloved Publix will now continue to overpay for products found to contain rat feces and insect fragments.
In November of last year, the ABC Action News team in Tampa Bay broke a story detailing how 7 Publix locations had failed food safety inspections with serious violations. The next day, all the pass/fail grades and inspection results were removed from the Department of Agriculture’s website under direct orders from Putnam.
His actions were disgraceful but rewarded by the privately-held Publix chain. Publix is one of Putnam’s biggest contributors.
Was the suspension of political donations in the wake of Hogg’s organized protest really a win?
Only for Publix.
Due to the suspension, there will be no money donated for the school’s Victims Fund. Publix has already donated to Putnam anyway. The Hogg-led protest ended in a whimper.
There is another problem with the ballyhooed result. Although Publix favors predominantly Republican campaigns and conservative causes, they also had donated to promote policies dear to Democrats.
As Caleb Hull from IJR noted on Twitter, the boycott also forced Publix to pull out of donating to pro-gay marriage and pro-abortion organizations.
Hogg has more successfully organized for a number of causes since the Valentine’s Day shooting. In March, he and a group of Parkland students organized the March for Our Lives. The main event, which took place in Washington, D.C., called for increased gun control and sprouted sister marches in all 50 states and hundreds of thousands of participants.
The 17-year-old’s activism also compelled companies to pull funding from Laura Ingraham‘s Fox News show, “The Ingraham Angle,” after she derided him for not being accepted by a number of colleges. At least 16 companies pulled commercials from the show in the wake of Hogg’s criticism.
I know many who call themselves “socially conscious,” “liberal,” or “progressive” who collectively breathed a sigh of relief at Publix’ mischaracterized “capitulation.” The company’s maneuver gave these addicted shoppers a clear conscience. They quickly resumed their patronage of Publix on the Memorial Day weekend—the three days targeted for boycott—and forever more for that matter.
Florida newspapers and electronic media, who squirmed while reporting the unethical misadventures and political payoffs by the state’s largest advertiser, were suddenly off the hook.
The Publix closest to where I live in West Tampa saw its parking lot literally overflowing on Sunday.
Publix did not lose any business, appeared to be conciliatory, paid off Putnam, and is saving a few million by suspending donations. Corks are popping and it’s high fives all around in the board room.
The crisis consultants deserve a huge bonus.