The Disinformation Panic Around ‘Boycotting’ Dylan Mulvaney and Bud Light

The announcement that trans actress Dylan Mulvaney was working with the Bud Light brand of beers sent right-wing media organizations and bloggers into a transphobic fit — with a predictably ahistorical bent.

As the LGBTQ news site Them reported, Mulvaney is promoting the beer brand’s “Easy Carry” contest; Mulvaney noted on her Instagram page that she had not only marked one year in her transition but that the company had sent her “possibly the best gift ever — a can with my face on it”:

Fact Check

Claim: There’s a boycott against Bud Light due to Dylan Mulvaney

Description: Right-wing media organizations and bloggers allegedly calling for a boycott of Bud Light in response to the beer brand’s association with transgender actress, Dylan Mulvaney.

Rating: Partly True

Rating Explanation: Claims of a boycott are based on reports of transphobic reactions to Dylan Mulvaney working with Bud Light, including comments from right-wing media organizations and bloggers. The intensity and extent of the boycott have however not been quantified.

Mulvaney’s video spawned an alleged “boycott” as well as firearms use by right-wing entertainer Bob “Kid Rock” Ritchie:

According to Them:

Conservative commentator John Cardillo misgendered Mulvaney as a “grown man who dresses like little girls” in a tweet reacting to the news, adding, “Brands have to stop listening to their woke creative teams and get in touch with their consumer demographics.”

Per the outlet, columnist Derek Hunter employed a common tactic used by right-wing commentators intended to paint LGBTQ+ people as predators, tweeting, “@Budlight: the groomer of beers.”

Some would-be influencers seized on the introduction of special cans to celebrate the “Bud Light Camp” campaign to imply that LGBTQ people don’t drink beer at all:

That accusation was quickly debunked by Max Dubler, a spokesperson for the Los Angeles advocacy group Abundant Housing.

“Bud Lite has been the default cheap beer at gay bars since 1977, when labor unions and LGBT groups organized a boycott of Coors to protest Coors’ practice of forcing employees to take polygraph tests that included questions about their sexual orientation,” Dubler wrote.

This is accurate. The boycott against Coors originated in 1966; as Colorado Public Radio recalled in a 2014 retrospective, the state chapter of Latino veterans’ organization The American GI Forum and a Denver group, Crusade for Justice, led the effort against the company’s discriminatory practices:

Only 2 percent of the approximately 1,400 workers at the company’s Golden brewery were Mexican-American, and those Hispanics who found employment were stuck in poorly paid, menial jobs. The brewery subjected potential employees to polygraph and other tests to “detect possible troublemakers” – a policy instituted by the family after the kidnapping and murder of Adolph Coors III in 1960.

Protests and boycotts against the brand continued into the 1970s, spreading beyond Colorado into California’s Bay Area, where local Teamster leader Allan Baird organized a campaign to remove Coors products from local grocery store shelves. As Zócalo Public Media reported in April 2022, Baird cultivated a friendship with Harvey Milk, who was then a local-level activist for the gay community:

As the two became fast friends, Milk emerged as a key supporter of the boycott, on the condition that Baird and the Teamsters guaranteed jobs for LGBTQ drivers. With Milk on board, other LGBTQ activists joined the fray, such as Cleve Jones, Milk’s assistant and future union leader, and Howard Wallace, the co-founder of a radical organization called the Bay Area Gay Liberation (BAGL). BAGL meetings became hotbeds of Coors boycott organizing—after meetings, members would hit local gay bars to convince patrons and owners alike to join the fight.

The largest boycott of Coors, led by the AFL-CIO, ended after the two sides reached an agreement in 1987 — by which point union officials claimed that the company’s market share had dropped in California to 14 percent in the late 1970s and 22 percent in its homestate of Colorado in 1984 — fully 25 percent lower than just seven years earlier.

While Budweiser has a long history of marketing to and with LGBTQ communities, Joseph Coors of the Coors family reportedly provided some of the inital funding for the right-wing, disinformation-friendly Heritage Foundation.

On April 14 2023, Brendan Whitworth — chief executive officer for Bud Light’s parent company Anheuser-Busch — posted a statement making an oblique reference to the ginned-up campaign against Mulvaney.

“We never intended to be part of a discussion that divides people,” Whitworth said in the statement. “We are in the business of bringing people together over a beer.”

According to the Daily Beast, the National Republican Congressional Committee posted — and quickly deleted — a tweet seeking to use the ginned-up controversy as a way to raise funds, featuring a photo of a beer koozie bearing the caption “This beer identifies as water”:

The post was deleted without explanation, but the Beast reported that Anheuser-Busch donated $464,505 to the GOP in 2022.

According to the Philadelphia Insider, at least two marketing executives for Bud Light — Daniel Blake and Alissa Heinerscheid — have been placed “on leave” by Anheuser Busch.

The newspaper also reported that Mulvaney addressed the attacks on her in an interview with comedian Rosie O’Donnell, calling on allies of trangender communities for support.

“I’m just like, ‘We just have to stay alive,'” Mulvaney said on O’Donnell’s podcast. “This is the time, I think, for not only just everyday straight people, but we need every letter of the alphabet to show up for us — because I think it’s all hands on deck.”

Mulvaney posted a video on June 29 2023 criticizing Bud Light for “ghosting” her amid the backlash against her.

“For months now, I’ve been scared to leave my house,” she said. “I have been ridiculed in public. I’ve been followed. And I have felt a loneliness I wouldn’t wish on anyone.”

On May 17 2023, right-wing lawmakers escalated the harassment against Mulvaney, calling on the trade group The Beer Institute to investigate Bud Light for its involvement with Mulvaney. reported that Sens. Ted Cruz (R) of Texas and Marsha Blackburn (R) of Tennessee both misgendered Mulvaney in a letter to the group, while also accusing her of creating a “faux, pre-pubescent girl persona” on her social media account. As summarized:

Over the past few years, conservatives have made allegations of child abuse and “grooming” a perpetual aspect of their anti-trans legislative agenda, allying with far-right extremists who use that rhetoric as an excuse to target LGBTQ+ people and drag performers with violence. In directing the Beer Institute to forcibly sever the Mulvaney-Bud Light partnership — which, it must be said, appears to already be over — Cruz and Blackburn are also advancing the Republican agenda to convince everyone in the U.S. that trans people are trying to manipulate, abuse, and profit from your children, and should be feared and hated wherever we show our faces.

We contacted the Beer Institute seeking comment on the two lawmakers’ letter.

Update 4/14/2023, 3:12 p.m. PST: Updated to account for a statement from Anheuser-Busch. — ag
Update 4/17/2023, 11:36 a.m. PST: Updated to reflect the apparent deletion of a Republican fundraising tweet targeting Anheuser-Busch. — ag
Update 4/24/2023, 12:03 p.m. PST: Updated to reflect management changes at Bud Light, and comments from Dylan Mulvaney. — ag
Update 5/22/2023, 2:49 p.m. PST: Updated with note on letter from Senators Marsha Blackburn and Ted Cruz calling for a trade group investigation into Mulvaney’s involvement with Anheuser-Busch. — ag
Update 6/29/2023, 1:33 p.m. PST: Updated with new comment from Dylan Mulvaney. — ag