Gay ads spur Ford boycott
Conservative coalition says automaker reneged on agreement to stop ads in alternative media.
David Shepardson / Detroit News Washington Bureau
-- A group of 19 conservative groups on Monday reinstated a boycott of Ford Motor Co. cars and trucks because the automaker backed away from a pledge to stop advertising in publications aimed at gays and lesbians.
The proposed yearlong boycott, led by the Tupelo, Miss.-based American Family Association, stems from the groups' belief that Ford has not "remained neutral in the cultural battles."
The groups said on its Web site it "tried every avenue open to get Ford to stop their promotion of homosexuality."
The groups registered www.boycottford.com
to provide information on why it believes Ford is a pro-gay company and garner support for the boycott.
"Ford has the right to financially support homosexual groups promoting homosexual marriage, but at the same time consumers have a right not to purchase automobiles made by Ford," AFA Chairman Donald Wildmon said in a statement.
The boycott is the latest wrinkle in what has been a public relations debacle for Ford. The company, despite several changes in policy, has been unable to mollify both conservative groups and gay and lesbian organizations.
In May 2005, the American Family Association called for a boycott of Ford. Shortly afterward, the group suspended the boycott after meeting with Ford execs and dealers.
Jerry Reynolds, the owner of the No. 2 Ford dealership in Texas and a former head of the Ford dealer council, was one of three Ford officials who negotiated with the AFA and said the renewed boycott wasn't a surprise.
"We knew it was going to happen -- we didn't know when. I think they're somewhat frustrated by the fact that Ford really isn't jumping in the middle of things," said Reynolds, who owns Prestige Ford in Garland, Texas. "No Ford dealer wants a boycott of any kind especially a sizable one."
He said a sustained boycott by the group that claims 2 million online members could hurt in a U.S. market where 17 million vehicles are sold annually.
"There's a risk anytime a mainstream company strays too far left or right," Reynolds said.
Sean Kofosky, director of policy at the Triangle Foundation, a Detroit-based gay rights group, blasted the AFA as "an extremist hate group that does nothing that promotes families. All they do is bully people into supporting discrimination. They want to attack American automakers who market to every niche and support free enterprise," Kofosky said.
The Dearborn-based automaker, with 3,800 U.S. dealers, offered little comment on the renewed boycott. "Ford is proud of its tradition of treating all with respect and we remain focused on what we do best -- building and selling the most innovative cars and trucks worldwide," spokeswoman Kathleen Vokes said.
In December, Ford said it would continue to buy corporate advertising in gay and lesbian publications, responding to concerns that it had dropped ads to end AFA's protests.
In a letter to seven gay-rights groups it met with in Washington in December, Joe Laymon, Ford's head of human resources, said the company's decision to drop ads for its Jaguar and Land Rover brands in gay and lesbian publications in 2006 had been misperceived.
"As a result, we have decided to run corporate ads in these targeted publications that will include not only Jaguar/Land Rover but all eight of Ford's vehicle brands," Laymon said then. "It is my hope that this will remove any ambiguity about Ford's desire to advertise to all important audiences and put this particular issue behind us."
The AFA said Ford's announcement effectively violated an agreement reached in late November to head off the boycott.