Noted misogynist Tucker Max recently attempted to donate $500,000 to Planned Parenthood in order to decrease his tax burden and promote his new book. PP was initially glad to receive the gift — lord knows they need the money — but when they realized it was from Tucker Max and part of a media blitz, they declined. Now Max’s brand manager/strategist is blowing them up on Forbes:
Planned Parenthood: “We have concerns about accepting this donation, we understand what you write is satire, but we’re worried about the perception.”
Tucker: “I don’t write satire. I write about my life.”
PP: “Yes, well, we’re concerned about the perception of your writing.”
Tucker: “Perception? You mean you have a problem with me personally, or you’re worried what OTHER people think?”
It took more than 20 minutes to actually tell him that they were not going to accept his money and that the meeting was off. Mind you, this conversation occurred as he was driving to Dallas. Eventually, they stopped being evasive and got to the real issue—self-righteousness. Planned Parenthood was actually willing to let clinics CLOSE rather than take money from a humorist (with millions of female fans) whose writing they didn’t like the perception of:
PP: “I guess it’s the way you write about women.”
Tucker “What do you mean? I’m not negative towards women in my writing. Women love my writing; more than half my fans are female.”
PP: “Well…there are certain jokes you make we feel can be perceived in a certain negative manner.”
Tucker: “So because I made a fat girl joke you won’t accept a $500,000 donation?”
PP: “I wouldn’t characterize it that way.”
Tucker: “How would you then? I’m listening and I want your best quote.”
PP: “We don’t feel it would be appropriate, given Planned Parenthood’s mission and your body of work, to accept your donation.”
Tucker: “What? I thought Planned Parenthood’s mission was about helping women, not passing judgment on humor.”
Tucker called me stunned. We could hardly conceive of what had just happened. Planned Parenthood’s “mission” is to help women get access to reproductive services, but they were turning down money intended to do precisely that. How could someone trying to give a half million dollars to a women’s health clinic be turned away for being anti-woman? A week before Planned Parenthood been “honored to have his support,” now they were slamming the door in his face. So he turned around and headed home, the check he’d planned to write figuratively torn up.
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.
Yes, Planned Parenthood’s mission is to help women. Yes, Planned Parenthood could definitely use half a million dollars. But in order to accomplish their mission, Planned Parenthood needs to not open themselves up to further politicization and marginalization. They’re already under attack from the GOP for doing nothing other than providing health care to women. And Tucker Max wasn’t donating to PP out of the goodness of his heart; he was donating explicitly because he wanted to make a big public deal about it, and use the donation to rehabilitate his image as the expense of Planned Parenthood’s.
Planned Parenthood was in between a rock and a hard place: Accept much-needed money but open themselves up to another attack that could result in their losing significantly more than $500,000 in state and federal funds, or refuse much-needed money but cover their asses. They decided to avoid the risk that comes from taking money from Tucker Max — because if they took that money, their broader mission could be even more severely impeded. Believe me, Planned Parenthood is the last organization to be judgmental of an individual’s personal and sexual choices. But they do have to protect themselves, and they have been under siege for the past few years. There are entire organizations and large numbers of politicians who have made it their mission to destroy Planned Parenthood. PP can’t afford to take unnecessary risks. Unnecessary risks can mean that the organization ceases to exist. That impedes their mission a hell of a lot more than not having an additional $500,000.
So the accusation from Ryan Holiday that Planned Parenthood is letting “perception and moral superiority and BS politics get in the way of their real mission of helping people in need”? Planned Parenthood is constantly besieged by moral superiority and BS politics, which do impede their real mission of helping people in need. If Tucker Max wants to quit being a Grade-A Asshole, he could donate to Planned Parenthood anonymously (and still get the tax write-off). It wouldn’t score him big news stories or rehab his image — an image that has gotten him very very rich and is entirely of his own doing — but it would actually help people, without actively harming Planned Parenthood. But nah, instead his strategist posts a big Fuck You to PP on Forbes.
Tucker and Ryan, you actually want to help people by donating to Planned Parenthood? Then do it. But trying to bolster the career of a misogynist narcissist at the expense of an organization that is already teetering on the brink, and then crying foul — and attempting a public shaming– when the organization protects itself so that it can continue to provide much-needed help to people who need more fundamental assistance than a new image and a tax break? That’s disgusting and transparently self-serving. And doesn’t do much to counter the perception that Tucker Max and his team are, in fact, a bunch of total fucking shitbags.