The privilege of living in the US is that each of us has the freedom to speak our minds. Some use this freedom of speech to promote unity, equity, and other ideals that are the hallmark of the nation’s ideals. The recent publication of Adios America by Ann Coulter and the opinions expressed on Mexico and Mexicans by Donald Trump illustrate how freedom of speech can be used to undermine our most cherished beliefs in a pluralistic society. For the past 30 years, Rush Limbaugh has used his media businesses to further the cause of bigots, homophobes, and to reinforce stereotypes and bias. One consequence of all three of these individuals’ activities is that they have amassed enormous money endorsing products, speaking at events, creating businesses and much more.
The words of Coulter, Trump, and Limbaugh have other consequences.
Their words impact the quality of life for millions of hard working people of color, immigrants, LGBT families, and women. Their ideas about the immigrants who continue to build this nation day by day make it harder for them to find work, for their children to walk with pride, and for some to be denied basic human rights. Their ability to use the media to fuel bigotry can even inspire terrorists to take the lives of innocent people.
The commercial sponsorships of Coulter, Trump and Limbaugh should be seen by any corporation as a liability for which every Board member and senior executive must address as a matter of governance and risk management. It is only a matter of time that someone somehow will find a way to form a class action suit that links the activities of these individuals to very clear financial and emotional harm amassed among a class of people who continue to be maligned by Coulter, Trump and Lumbaugh. We live in the era of big data and it would be interesting to link their actions to hate crimes across the country.
The nation’s most watched media outlet—Univision-- has demonstrated the leadership necessary for corporate social responsibility of the highest order: furthering the ideal of pluralism. Univision has pulled out of Trump’s commercial ventures. This should serve as an example to all corporations to review sponsorships with any individual who promotes bias, sexism, homophobia, and bigotry.
None of these individuals would be in the position to promote their ideas were it not for the money to do so. And yet, if your company continues to pay for commercials on their websites or sponsors their media appearance, you are furthering the opportunity of people who profit from hate and injustice. This ability to fund spokespeople for divisiveness will not continue without some consequence.
The list of supporters for Coulter, Limbaugh, and Trump are all available in different postings across the internet. You know you are. People will learn what you support. The time is now to take note of how companies have had to step up on their moral compass and do the right thing. The diversity of your customers, investors and other stakeholders requires that you act—if you cannot be motivated by a moral compass, you should be clear about your bottom line.