Philip Anschutz, the notoriously private billionaire whose company AEG Live is the overseeing owner in Coachella, has rebuked reports that he currently donates to anti-LGBTQ groups, and states that he “unequivocally support[s] the rights of all people without regard to sexual orientation.”
In a statement issued to Rolling Stone, Anschutz deploys the dreaded term “fake news” about the resurrection of reports regarding his right-wing philanthropy that flared up on music blogs and at sites like Teen Vogue and Uproxx (and at Jezebel)—stories that were naturally pegged to this week’s release of the Coachella line-up:
“Recent claims published in the media that I am anti-LGBTQ are nothing more than fake news – it is all garbage,” he wrote. “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.”
This is great news. As to the “fake news” claim, however, it’s worth noting that in Anschutz’s statement, he does not deny that he has ever in the past donated to anti-LGBTQ groups—in fact, a representative told Rolling Stone “we have immediately ceased all contributions to such groups.” Anschutz seems to imply that was an accident:
“Both the Anschutz Foundation and I contribute to numerous organizations that pursue a wide range of causes,” he wrote. “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.”
According to a study released last year by the bipartisan LGBTQ rights group Freedom for All Americans and reported by the Washington Post, the Anschutz Foundation donated to three specifically anti-LGBTQ groups between 2010 and 2013: Alliance Defending Freedom, the National Christian Foundation, and the Family Research Council.
And while it’s wonderful he seems to have grown more accepting of gay rights in the past decades, his past donations to anti-gay organizations can hardly be characterized as “fake news.” For instance, his donations to Colorado for Family Values, the conservative anti-gay group that pushed the state’s 1992 discrimination bill Proposition 2, have been reported on since that year. From a 1998 profile in Los Angeles Magazine, accessed via Nexis: “In the crucial final days of the successful campaign to pass Colorado’s Amendment 2, which restricted the right of the state’s cities to pass civil rights protection for gays, Anschutz donated $10,000 to the amendment’s backers, Colorado for Family Values.”
And in 2000, Forbes, which has been covering Anschutz favorably since its first fawning profile of the soon-to-be oil and gas tycoon in its June 8, 1981 issue (headline: “Remember the Name: Anschutz”), reiterated that involvement, writing:
In 1992 a Colorado newspaper identified him as the largest donor to a conservative Christian group called Colorado for Family Values. At the time the group was pushing a state ballot measure that would have prohibited antidiscrimination laws benefiting gays. His Anschutz Foundation funnels a lot of its money to such conservative causes as Morality in Media, the Institute for American Values and a group that rails against Internet porn, “Enough is Enough.” Jerry Seslowe, managing director of a holding company that Anschutz founded with the Pritzker family, recalls Anschutz’s moral outrage in the early 1980s after taking his wife to see Pippin. The Bob Fosse Broadway musical about a young man’s coming of age was apparently too risque for Anschutz.
Again, clearly Anschutz has had a change of heart since he and a spokesperson insist the Anschutz Foundation no longer donates to anti-gay causes, and it’s the absolute best case scenario that someone so discriminatory can be reformed with time—so it’s unfortunate that the billionaire would try to disown his own evolution on the matter by dismissing it as “fake news.”
Anschutz did not comment to Rolling Stone about his involvement, financial or otherwise, with climate change denier groups, creationist organizations, or anti-union media—or the money donated to the fight against legalizing tiny amounts of marijuana in Colorado. Goldenvoice has not yet responded to Jezebel’s request for comment.