DaimlerChrysler Faces Consumer Anger Over Conservative Slur
CNSNEWS.com ^ | 1/23/03 | Robert B. Bluey
Complaints about DaimlerChrysler continued to grow Wednesday as the company again refused to retract a top executive's comment that conservatives had a "myopic view of the world."
The National Center for Public Policy Research, which has sought an apology since Friday, threatened to take up the matter with conservative members of Congress. Amy Ridenour, president of the conservative group, said DaimlerChrysler, which manufactures Dodge, Chrysler, Jeep and Mercedes vehicles, might reconsider its position if elected officials broached the topic with the company's lobbyists.
Meanwhile, several people, including some who are shopping for new vehicles, told CNSNews.com they would never again buy a DaimlerChrysler automobile; the small-scale boycotts designed to protest the company's support of the Rev. Jesse Jackson's pet projects and the "myopic" remark by Senior Vice President for Government Affairs Frank Fountain.
Ridenour said the company probably does not view conservatives in a negative light but, based on its handling of this situation, she said it certainly appears that way. For that reason, she said, a boycott might be an effective way for conservatives to show solidarity.
Several consumers contacted by CNSNews.com said they were expressing their dismay with the company by boycotting DaimlerChrysler vehicles, calling the incident enough of an incentive to stop buying the company's products.
Jim Crawford, an antique car enthusiast who runs an energy consulting business in Maryland, said he was planning to buy a new Jeep a few days before reading Fountain's comments. Crawford said he is now considering a Chevrolet instead.
"People have longer memories than these corporate giants understand," Crawford said. "I'm only one consumer, but for every one like me, there are hundreds of thousands of people who won't say a word but will likely copy my buying habits."
Dan Cron, a retired police officer from California, drives a Jeep that is about 10 years old. He was planning to buy another Jeep soon, but not anymore, he said.
"The more I find out about companies like DaimlerChrysler, the better it is for me because that way, I'm not endorsing anti-American and anti-conservative views," he said.
Another Californian, Charles Whiteaker, a retired steel company executive, said he enjoys his 10-year-old Jeep Eagle Vision, but his feelings toward DaimlerChrysler soured once he found out the company helped pay for Jackson's project.
"It doesn't bother me as much that this guy mouths off about conservatives but that all these companies are supporting Jesse Jackson and his shakedown," Whiteaker said. "There's a lot of [automobile] choices out there today, and there are a lot of other companies that don't support organizations like this that I can buy from."
It was at Jackson's Wall Street Project last week that Fountain told CNSNews.com : "Most of [Jackson's] critics are conservatives; they have a rather myopic view of the world."
That comment immediately prompted a reaction from Ridenour, who said she is tired of unfounded criticism of conservatives.
"It's time that we conservatives, who are usually the people getting attacked, stand up and say, 'Either apologize for that slur or prove it's accurate,' " Ridenour said. "If we let people get away with calling us names all the time, we'll never get down to business."
Fountain, who was not available for comment Wednesday, turned down Ridenour's request to apologize.
"I was referring to no specific organization or individual, so I don't feel that there is any apology in order," Fountain said Friday.
When contacted Wednesday, DaimlerChrysler spokeswoman Debra Nelson dismissed the initial report, claiming at one point that Fountain never made his comment about myopic conservatives, which was made during a tape-recorded interview.
Nelson also argued that, "Fountain's comments were taken out of context and were not intended to characterize individuals of any political perspective," she said. Nelson refused to explain the context in which Fountain made the comments.
Fountain originally said that DaimlerChrysler had contributed money "in the six figures" for the Wall Street Project, but Nelson contradicted the executive, calling the figure inaccurate. The total amount the company gave Jackson for this year's event is unknown, but Nelson said it has contributed to his causes in the past.
In 2000, the company gave $50,000 to Jackson's PUSH for Excellence education initiative, according to the Capital Research Center, which tracks corporate philanthropy.
Christopher Morris, editor of the group's publication Patterns of Corporate Philanthropy , said that, based on his review of DaimlerChrysler's donations, there is not a bias toward liberal or conservative causes.