What happens when Planned Parenthood won't take a half-million-dollar donation because of negative publicity? You get a really upset publicist, in this case for the snarky humorist Tucker Max, the author of books with titles including "A--holes Finish First" and "I Hope They Serve Beer In Hell" and "Sloppy Seconds: The Tucker Max Leftovers." (The money's now going to an even more shameless left-wing lobby: PETA.)
Publicist Ryan Holiday wrote at Forbes that he gave birth to this genius idea before it was mercilessly aborted by the nation's leading abortion provider:
As long as I’ve known Tucker—a card-carrying member of the University of Chicago School of Economics who also has a law degree from Duke—he has been pro-choice. He was a wild partier for a long time, and by extension, a strong advocate for the use of contraceptives and regular STD testing.
Tucker thought about it for a few days and called me back, “They really did help me and my girlfriend when I was poor, I really do believe in their mission, and if this money doesn’t go to them it goes to the government anyway. Let’s do it.”
His excitement was quickly reciprocated by Planned Parenthood’s Dallas office. When Tucker’s assistant reached out and expressed our interest in making a donation large enough to name a clinic in Texas (fully disclosing his bosses name and occupation), Aimee Boon, a VP there, gushed over email:
“I am so pleased that your employer is interesting in considering a named gift…We would be honored to have his support, and his gift would make an enormous impact in our ability to meet the needs of our rapidly growing community in North Texas.”
The crazy idea looked like it could actually happen. Several more emails were exchanged laying out the donation tiers and what naming rights would cost (between $250,000-$500,000). After discussing the details over the phone expressing how serious we were about this and proving Tucker’s financial qualifications, a final lunch was set with between Tucker and the CEO Ken Lambrecht a few days later in Dallas. Tucker set out to make the 3 ½ hour drive from his home in Austin.
And then Planned Parenthood got in its own way.
They called "in a panic" and said they were "worried about the perception." Perhaps some pro-lifers would make fun of them and wonder if Planned Parenthood employees wonder if they serve beer in Hell after the work that they do to destroy unborn babies. Back then to the publicist's complaint:
It took more than 20 minutes to actually tell him that they were not going to accept his money and that the meeting was off. Mind you, this conversation occurred as he was driving to Dallas. Eventually, they stopped being evasive and got to the real issue—self-righteousness. Planned Parenthood was actually willing to let clinics CLOSE rather than take money from a humorist (with millions of female fans) whose writing they didn’t like the perception of:
PP: “I guess it’s the way you write about women.”
Tucker “What do you mean? I’m not negative towards women in my writing. Women love my writing; more than half my fans are female.”
PP: “Well…there are certain jokes you make we feel can be perceived in a certain negative manner.”
Tucker: “So because I made a fat girl joke you won’t accept a $500,000 donation?”
PP: “I wouldn’t characterize it that way.”
Tucker: “How would you then? I’m listening and I want your best quote.”
PP: “We don’t feel it would be appropriate, given Planned Parenthood’s mission and your body of work, to accept your donation.”
Tucker: “What? I thought Planned Parenthood’s mission was about helping women, not passing judgment on humor.”
Tucker called me stunned. We could hardly conceive of what had just happened. Planned Parenthood’s “mission” is to help women get access to reproductive services, but they were turning down money intended to do precisely that. How could someone trying to give a half million dollars to a women’s health clinic be turned away for being anti-woman? A week before Planned Parenthood been “honored to have his support,” now they were slamming the door in his face. So he turned around and headed home, the check he’d planned to write figuratively torn up.
As a marketer, it was one of the stupidest and most depressing things I’ve ever seen. This would have been a win-win-win-win situation. Cut a check, keep a clinic open. Rehabilitate some of Tucker’s PR. Reduce a tax burden. Encourage other donors. And most importantly: Help women keep access to vital reproductive services. But nope. So I tell this story not simply to call out Planned Parenthood—though they deserve it and more. Tucker wasn’t trying to make a fool of them with the donation I set up, but they acted like one anyway.
Over at Time.com, Megan Gibson is citing feminists who just know Planned Parenthood is always right:
As Jill Filipovic points out at Feministe, “There are entire organizations and large numbers of politicians who have made it their mission to destroy Planned Parenthood. PP can’t afford to take unnecessary risks. Unnecessary risks can mean that the organization ceases to exist. That impedes their mission a hell of a lot more than not having an additional $500,000.”
For an organization that is constantly under attack from a right-wing base with a heavy religious following, accepted support from a man whose reputation is so incompatible with both Planned Parenthood and the GOP’s supposed values is nothing if not a political liability. Remember, this is the man who wants his name on a health clinic that provides abortions, among other services, because it would be funny. Associating themselves with Max would have all but guarantee that Planned Parenthood would face political backlash of some sort.
PS: Did you see that CNSNews.com reported that the formerly Planned Parenthood-connected Guttmacher Institute took a porn company's donation?
The lesbian pornographic film company “Girlfriends Films” made a $1,000 donation to the Alan Guttmacher Institute -- because of its “contribution to reproductive and sexual health.”
“In a world where the mass media go out of their way to spread misinformation about sexuality -- particularly women’s sexuality -- there is one shining light consistently presenting the facts and statistics needed to counter the religio-conservatives: The Guttmacher Institute,” said Mark Kernes, senior editor and chief legal analyst for the Adult Video News, who made the donation on behalf of the sex video distributor.
“Girlfriends Films is to be congratulated for being willing to ‘step up to the plate’ and encourage and help other members of the adult community make this country a better place to live in with its charitable donations, Bravo!” he said.