Planned Parenthood of Texas — in the wake of a massive budget crisis — has raised eyebrows by turning down a $500,000 donation from noted feminist Tucker Max. Based on the way Team Mr. Max, Esq. explains it, you'd think that the family planning organization snobbishly turned its nose up at a sincere Good Deed from a guy just trying to be Nice because the Nice Guy happens to be a guy who writes about sex and partying. But Tucker Max's rejected donation wasn't brought on by a swelling sense of altruism and personal responsibility — it was the latest in his ongoing series of attempts to use Planned Parenthood to get attention for himself.
Ryan Holiday, a media consultant who works with Tucker Max, took to Forbes today to lament Planned Parenthood of Texas' decision to reject a half million dollar donation from the writer/speaker/professional asshole. According to Holiday, the idea to give to Planned Parenthood of Texas sprang up organically over an email exchange earlier this year. Max wrote him an email that read,
Ryan, I have a huge tax burden this year. I can reduce it with a large donation to charity, but I want to promote my new book at the same time. Can you come up with something cool that does both?
Holiday wrote that his response "stunned" Tucker Max... but it was just so crazy that it might work!
What if you gave a bunch of money to Planned Parenthood and they named a clinic after you? They need donors, it'd be awesome and you'd get a ton of positive press out of it for a change.
A capital idea! The gentlemen agreed before shaking hands, adjusting their top hats, and lighting their pipes. Win-win! Planned Parenthood of Texas gets money! Tucker Max gets a building named after him! What a stroke of genius!
Except Holiday can't take credit for the idea at all, nor was Tucker Max "stunned" by the brilliance of it — unless Tucker Max has recently been afflicted with a tragic mental condition that has erased all of his memories from the past year. In fact, Max's camp has been trying to give money to three different Planned Parenthood affiliates across the country since last summer, according to a representative from Planned Parenthood. His agent, a guy by the name of Ian Claudius, had been making those calls, and always requested that the organization repay Max's largesse in the form of endorsements or building naming rights, and each affiliate has turned him down on the grounds that what Max wants in exchange for his gifts violates the organization's gifts policy. UPDATE: Ryan Holiday has reached out to me to clarify that the Planned Parenthood donation was indeed his idea.
The family planning organization's reasoning for the rejections is simple: They want no part in providing publicity to a guy who, by all accounts, appears to sort of hate Planned Parenthood. Last July, he tweeted, "Planned Parenthood would be cooler if it was a giant flight of stairs, w/someone pushing girls down, like a water park slide #FF @PPact." And just a couple weeks ago, on March 14, he said, "In South Florida. This place is awful. Shitty design, slutty whores & no culture, like a giant Planned Parenthood waiting room." LOL. Thinking sexually active women are sluts! Is this guy transgressive and edgy or what?! (He's deleted both of those Tweets since the Forbes story posted, apparently in an attempt to retroactively make himself look like less of a shamelessly self-promoting dick attempting to use an organization that promotes the health of poor women to help him sell books and/or rehabilitate his image.)
According to the organization's gift policy, "Planned Parenthood reserves the right to decline offers of gifts and grants that may be discriminatory, are for purposes outside of our mission, or are too difficult to administer." The naked publicity whoring by a guy who refers to a clinic's patients as "sluts" likely falls under that category.
But Ryan Holiday, he of the brilliant and totally spontaneous and totally recent idea that Tucker Max should give so much money to Planned Parenthood that they have to name a clinic after him, claims that the offer to give a gift was well-received initially, and that Max had scheduled a lunch with the CEO of Planned Parenthood's North Texas affiliate. But then, the organization called him to let him know that they were sorry, but they just couldn't accept his gift. Holiday declares that Planned Parenthood's decision is a matter of "self-righteousness."
As a marketer, it was one of the stupidest and most depressing things I've ever seen. This would have been a win-win-win-win situation. Cut a check, keep a clinic open. Rehabilitate some of Tucker's PR. Reduce a tax burden. Encourage other donors. And most importantly: Help women keep access to vital reproductive services. But nope. So I tell this story not simply to call out Planned Parenthood-though they deserve it and more. Tucker wasn't trying to make a fool of them with the donation I set up, but they acted like one anyway.
Yeah, sorry, but that's not the case. Max's PR team has been pestering Planned Parenthood about naming rights and other donor perks in an attempt to use a women's health clinic to garner publicity for a misogynist writer for almost a year to no avail, and now that Team Max didn't get their way, they're attempting to leverage a poorly executed rejection of funds for publicity. Both actions are totally fucked up, not to mention dishonest. Planned Parenthood's Texas affiliate should have coordinated the rejection of funds in a more efficient way and just denied Max's publicist outright rather than giving him any sort of run-around, and if Tucker Max were offering his donation with no strings attached, without ulterior motives benefitting his own image and publicity, this would be a different matter. But Planned Parenthood is under no obligation to help someone like Max enhance his image or sell books; they don't owe Tucker Max an abortion clinic.