Anheuser-Busch’s chief executive on Friday issued a statement amid Bud Light’s controversy over its sponsorship deal with transgender activist Dylan Mulvaney.
It was the first public statement issued by the top executive since controversy started brewing over the campaign, announced by Mulvaney earlier this month. Mulvaney’s likeness was placed on cans of Bud Light as part of the sponsorship deal, prompting industry analysts to issue warnings.
“We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people,” Anheuser-Busch InBev CEO Brendan Whitworth said in press release. “We are in the business of bringing people together over a beer.”
Whitworth did not specifically mention Mulvaney, Bud Light, or transgender issues. And he did not address reports, citing anonymous sources, that claimed company executives were kept in the dark about the Mulvaney sponsorship deal. He also did not address reports of boycotts or distributors being worried about low sales.
“I care deeply about this country, this company, our brands and our partners. I spend much of my time traveling across America, listening to and learning from our customers, distributors and others,” his statement said. “Moving forward, I will continue to work tirelessly to bring great beers to consumers across our nation.”
Some Bud Light and Anheuser-Busch distributors around the country have expressed alarm over the deal, with one report saying that a number of bars have refused to serve Bud Light. Country singer and Nashville bar owner John Rich, meanwhile, told Fox News earlier this week that his bar won’t sell the beer.
Previously, Anheuser-Busch issued a statement to news outlets and defended its move to hire Mulvaney, who also has reported deals with Nike and other brands.
“Anheuser-Busch works with hundreds of influencers across our brands as one of many ways to authentically connect with audiences across various demographics,” a spokesperson said earlier this month in response to the backlash.
Industry analysts with the Beer Business Daily wrote that “the intense opposition to Mulvaney promoting the beer has been alarming to Anheuser-Busch distributors, which placed fewer orders after the partnership sparked outrage from conservatives who argued the company is pushing ‘gender propaganda.’”