After the Coachella lineup was announced earlier this week, independent and fiercely diverse site Afropunk shared a piece highlighting some reporting about AEG, (parent company of Goldenvoice, who owns Coachella), and AEG owner Philip Anschutz’s ties to anti-LGBT and climate change denialist organizations.
Yesterday, Anschutz has issued a statement in reaction to the story. Though multiple sources confirm he and his foundation have donated significant amounts of money to organizations that are both anti-LGBT and support climate change denial, Anschutz’s statement calls the surge of reporting on his donations “fake news,” and follows that up by noting that if he or his foundation did contribute to organizations that, against his prior knowledge, supported these causes, he has ceased. Interesting how it can be both fake, and something that he’s since stopped doing?
Here is Anschutz’s statement:
Recent claims published in the media that I am anti-LGBTQ are nothing more than fake news — it is all garbage. I unequivocally support the rights of all people without regard to sexual orientation. We are fortunate to employ a wealth of diverse individuals throughout our family of companies, all of whom are important to us — the only criteria on which they are judged is the quality of their job performance; we do not tolerate discrimination in any form.
“Both The Anschutz Foundation and I contribute to numerous organizations that pursue a wide range of causes. Neither I nor the Foundation fund any organization with the purpose or expectation that it would finance anti-LGBTQ initiatives, and when it has come to my attention or the attention of The Anschutz Foundation that certain organizations either the Foundation or I have funded have been supporting such causes, we have immediately ceased all contributions to such groups.
Some have questioned the focus on Anschutz’s ties, given how long Coachella has been owned by Goldenvoice/AEG, and how far reaching their scope is in the rest of the music industry. That’s a fair question — “why now?” is what Billboard specifically asked last night — but the answer to that is clear.
After the election of Donald Trump as President, many Americans are taking a closer look at what they have passively supported, many are trying to create a path of resistance or change. It’s worth noting that this is happening on both sides of the spectrum; many who voted for Trump feel that’s exactly what they’ve done by electing him. So yes, examining the way money flows from the powers above is an act of resistance. Whether people back it up by not attending Coachella, or whether or not performers decide to support festivals with these ties, remains to be seen.
Still, if Anschutz truly had no knowledge that these organizations lobbied in the political directions they do, and this outbreak of coverage alerted him to that, and he’s since stopped donating to those organizations, is that not, in fact, an immense change that’s been wrought? If it has never been his agenda to support anti-LGBT organizations like the Mission America Foundation who call homosexuality “deviance” — not too far from Kim Burrell’s comments — and these donations were oversights, then this “outrage” has stopped one of the world’s richest men from supporting causes he doesn’t even believe in. It’s also worth noting that this statement doesn’t even touch the climate change issue.
In that case, it could be argued that our voices matter more than ever, and that this kind of backlash is one of the tools that people like you and me have that might actually enact change.