After guest blogger Michael Jones posted concerns about Rockstar Energy Drink's possible connections to far-right radio talk show host Michael Savage, Bilerico Project and Change.org worked closely with the company over the last few weeks to take concrete steps on addressing LGBT rights. Rockstar is owned by Savage's son Russ Weiner.
We were pleased to facilitate a bold agreement between Rockstar and several LGBT rights organizations. The agreement resulted in significant changes to Rockstar's corporate practices to reflect LGBT-friendly policies and saw more than $100,000 distributed to four LGBT organizations through a multi-year, systemic gift.
Several websites and community members questioned the authenticity of Rockstar's LGBT-friendly policies and gifts since Savage's wife, Janet Weiner, was the CFO for both Rockstar and Savage Productions. The beverage company quietly took another step forward recently that wasn't announced in a press release.
Janet Weiner quit her job at Savage Productions as an apparent statement of solidarity with equality advocates.
While we were talking to Rockstar about their corporate policies and the apparent ties to Michael Savage, it was made clear time and time again that the company did not want to be associated with Savage's repugnant radio show or production company. The focus has mostly been on Russ and Janet Weiner because they're Michael Savage's kin. Families tend to have differing opinions on social issues though - and Savage's family is apparently no exception.
No one talking to the beverage maker from Bilerico or Change.org asked Janet Weiner to quit her job at either company. A woman should never be defined as incapable of thinking for herself or as a simple extension of her husband; she is a person and not just Michael Savage's wife. Plenty of people make poor relationship choices but they're not considered unemployable; she deserves the same respect.
Company spokesman Tony Guilfoyle confirmed for me that Janet Weiner "is no longer a director or in anyway professionally associated with her husband's company Savage productions." Guilfoyle confirmed that she stepped down of her own accord, but would not comment on the Weiners' personal lives. Janet Weiner could not be reached for comment.
Russ Weiner unequivocally stated his support of the LGBT community in the joint statement last week. "Some have erroneously associated our company with offensive language directed at LGBT people, specifically statements coming from Michael Savage, who is not and has never been a shareholder or officer of ROCKSTAR Energy Drink," he said. "On behalf of our company and directors, including myself and CFO Janet Weiner, I would like to take this opportunity to disavow any offensive statements directed toward LGBT people, including statements from Michael Savage."
With both Janet and Russ Weiner specifically condemning Savage's hate speech and Janet quitting the entertainment company, will Savage be tempering his foul mouth? I doubt it. (This is the guy who's been banned from the United Kingdom for the sheer amount of racist, xenophobic and homophobic pollution he spews into the air waves.) Life is rarely like a Disney movie where the grouchy curmudgeon turns a new leaf, smiles a lot and gives away candy to every passing child.
Savage has ignored the damage to his reputation, the public shaming by media watchdog groups, and the general loss of esteem by his peers. As his family members "come out" as pro-gay allies, I wonder if he'll finally realize the damage he's done to his own family. His son's successful company's reputation was damaged by his familial tie; his wife has publicly distanced herself from his hate speech and made clear her commitment to inclusiveness and diversity.
Michael Savage's hate speech and invectives are indefensible. If his career is a chess game, the King stands alone now and the Queen just put him in check.