On Thanksgiving morning, while most people were prepping for football and eating far too much turkey, the website company Leadpages was shutting down an opinion its executives disagreed with, in the name of diversity.
In an e-mail, Leadpages Director of Operations Doug Storbeck ordered 2nd Vote to take down its #AnywhereButTARGET website. According to Storbeck, ‘at Leadpages, we strive to create an inclusive workplace that upholds the dignity of all people. We value, respect, and celebrate everyone’s individualities and honor their unique strengths from all different walks of life.’
2nd Vote’s campaign encouraged conservatives to shop #AnywhereButTARGET because of the company’s policy that allows males who identify as females to use the restroom and changing room of their choice. Conservatives have boycotted the retail giant, though Target executives said in August that a stock drop and an investment in single-sex restrooms was unrelated to the backlash.
Founded in 2013, 2nd Vote is a conservative corporate watchdog that encourages conservatives to make their second “vote” via their spending habits. Target has long been on their radar because of its gender identity and other policies that support left-wing ideology.
2nd Vote Communications Director Robert Kuykendall told me his group “has reached over 3 million conservatives through several platforms.” He suspects Leadpages saw the #AnywhereButTarget campaign having an effect, so they squelched it.
About 27 hours after its campaign website was shut down, 2nd Vote’s anti-Target effort was back at full capacity with a different server. However, Leadpages’ discriminatory decision may have cost them a customer. In an e-mail to the company’s executives, LOGOS Identity Clothing’s Ryan O’Neil, a Leadpages customer, said he planned to boycott if Leadpages continued to shut down the campaign.
O’Neil said that Storbeck and Leadpages’ executive team had ‘inserted your company into identity politics, and I can’t support a company like yours that doesn’t respect freedom of speech and expression.’
Perhaps most glaringly, in showing his company’s commitment to diversity by shutting down an opinion with which his company disagrees (#sarcasm), Storbeck also said “we prohibit content which is hateful or discriminatory based on race, color, sex, religion, nationality, ethnic or national origin, marital status, disability, sexual orientation or age or is otherwise objectionable, as reasonably determined by Ave. 81.”
Nowhere does this policy mention gender identity. Yet that’s the issue on which 2nd Vote’s #AnywhereButTarget campaign focused. Two Leadpages spokespeople did not respond to my question about whether its squelching of 2nd Vote violated company policies. Likewise, they did not respond to a question about whether the company is violating its alleged commitment to diversity, or what company leadership thinks about religious liberty and gender identity debates in general.
Other companies should follow O’Neil’s lead in punishing Leadpages. I asked Storbeck why it took the company so long to discuss the landing page with 2nd Vote, an organization that self-identifies as “the conservative watchdog for corporate activism.” There’s no way that a sophisticated company like Leadpages would not know what 2nd Vote represents, nor what the anti-Target campaign would consist of.
Clearly, Leadpages thought it could get away with punishing 2nd Vote—although O’Neil’s reaction shows they may have miscalculated. Liberals have long used the marketplace to punish conservatives for their beliefs, which is their right (except when they use government to provide state-sanctioned enforcement of liberal ideology). Former Mozilla CEO Brendan Eich is a prime example.
But the boycotts against Target, and clothing company Land’s End’s economic difficulties after it promoted abortion advocate Gloria Steinem, show that the Right has market power as well. Leadpages may just find out that, by taking sides in a battle that pits liberal ideology against parents’ rights and the safety of women and children, it has put itself into a no-win situation.