A partnership between Bud Light and transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney sparked discussion about representation in the beer industry and a boycott from some conservative consumers.
Weeks later, the sole Instagram post that sparked the discourse continues to shake things up: At least two Bud Light marketing executives are on leave, Mulvaney said she’s faced transphobic harassment, some bars are halting product sales, and an alt-right beer grift appears to be on pause before it even launched.
Here’s what you need to know.
How did this all start?
In early April, Mulvaney posted a video of herself holding a custom Bud Light can with her face on it, which the company sent to help celebrate a year since beginning her transition. The can with Mulvaney’s face is not for sale, but the company announced a forthcoming line of Pride-themed cans featuring different pronouns. The video was part of a partnership between Mulvaney and the brand and promoted a social media contest the beer brand was running.
Quickly, the video was met with both positive and negative feedback and evolved into a weeks-long messy spectacle.
Critics said the beer brand should “know its audience” and demanded Bud Light cut ties with Mulvaney and stop “going woke.” Conservative figures, including Gov. Ron DeSantis (R., Fla.) and U.S. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R., Ga.), and Fox News hosts called for boycotts. Kid Rock posted a video of himself shooting 12-packs with a submachine gun, and others filmed themselves destroying and dumping out cans.
Some bars stopped selling the beer — either citing similar anti-trans beliefs or not wanting to get political and spark arguments.
What has happened since then?
For days, Bud Light’s social media stayed quiet. The company released a statement about the company’s various partnerships.
“Anheuser-Busch works with hundreds of influencers across our brands as one of many ways to authentically connect with audiences across various demographics and passion points.”
But Mulvaney’s supporters said they wanted something more direct as the starlet faced an influx of transphobic harassment.
On April 14, the company broke its social media silence with a statement from Anheuser-Busch CEO Brendan Whitworth. He said the company “never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people.” Whitworth did not reference the boycott or Mulvaney.
Two Bud Light executives on leave
Two Bud Light marketing executives involved with the Mulvaney partnership are now on leave.
Last week, Bud Light vice president of marketing Alissa Heinerscheid’s leave of absence was announced. Conservatives previously criticized Heinerscheid for a resurfaced podcast interview where she discussed moving Bud Light away from its “fratty” ties. The leave of absence was first reported by Beer Business Daily and Ad Age and confirmed by Anheuser-Busch.
By Monday, a second executive — Daniel Blake, who oversees marketing for Anheuser-Busch’s large brands — was also placed on leave, The Wall Street Journal reported.
Previously, a debunked rumor was circulating that Anheuser-Busch laid off its entire marketing team because of the right-wing backlash. The Associated Press confirmed that wasn’t the case.
Mulvaney speaks out
In her first major interview since the Bud Light backlash, Mulvaney spoke to the level of bullying the transgender community — and their allies — face.
“It’s bullying in the fact that they want anyone who associates themselves with trans people to be under fire,” she said on the April 11 episode of Onward with Rosie O’Donnell. “They want to essentially shame people into thinking that if you associate with someone like me, you are to be laughed at, and you are now the crazy one. Because you’re ‘giving in’ to someone’s identity, or just acknowledging their existence.”
When asked why right-wing trolls are targeting her, Mulvaney called herself “an easy target” because she transitioned in the last year.
“I’m still new to this,” she said. “Going after a trans woman that’s been doing this for, like, 20 years is a lot more difficult. So I think maybe they think there’s some sort of chance with me … but what is their goal?”
Mulvaney went on to voice concerns regarding the number of anti-trans and anti-LGBTQ bills surfacing across the country.
“I’m just like, ‘We just have to stay alive,’” she said. “This is the time, I think, for not only just everyday straight people, but we need every letter of the alphabet to show up for us — because I think it’s all hands on deck.”
Ultra Right Beer fails to get brewed
In response to Bud Light boycotts, a right-wing influencer attempted to launch his own anti-woke beer.
But, as noted by The Daily Dot, finding a contract brewer to make and distribute the beer has become a challenge.
Seth Weathers said he created Ultra Right beer to sell a product that doesn’t “use our money to indoctrinate children with their woke garbage.” A common anti-LGBTQ trope used among critics is likening queer people to “groomers” who are “indoctrinating youth.” Weathers listed the six-packs for $19.99 plus shipping. A Bud Light six-pack sells on average for about $8.
Weathers apparently planned to contract the beer brewing to Illinois-based Bent River Brewing Company. The brewery said it was approached for the contract, but declined once owners found out what it was for. Still, as first reported by PorchDrinking.com, archives show Bent River was listed as the beer maker on Ultra Right’s website.
For now, Ultra Right’s website is still active and still says the beer is made in Illinois. But the shipping time has been pushed back — from the original “May 11 or thereabouts” to “approximately 30 days after order.”