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McDonald's COO: Company's American 'Core Values' Exclude Gays?


In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, McDonald's COO Don Thompson suggests that the reason a gay McDonald's ad currently running in France won't be running in the United States is because homosexuality is offensive to Christians, like himself.

Mcdonalds_thompson Tribune: A French TV ad featuring a gay teen and his father has stirred some controversy — not there, but here. Can you talk about that?

Thompson: It is an example that markets, cultures are very different around the world. (For instance), I've never shied away from the fact that I'm a Christian. I have my own personal beliefs and I don't impose those on anybody else. I've been in countries where the majority of the people in the country don't believe in a deity or they may be atheist. Or the majority of the country is Muslim. Or it may be the majority is much younger skewed. So when you look at all these differences, it's not that I'm to be the judge or the jury relative to right or wrong. Having said that, at McDonald's, there are core values we stand for and the world is getting much closer. So we have a lot of conversations. We're going to make some mistakes at times. (We talk) about things that may have an implication in one part of the world and may be the cultural norm in another part of the world. And those are things that, yes, we're going to learn from. But, you're right, that commercial won't show in the United States.

Tribune: How has it done in France?

Thompson: Interestingly enough, there have been no negatives coming out of France. The brand is a local brand and different things will occur in different parts of the world. We just have to make sure that we understand the impact one action may make on another part of the world.

The National Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce has certainly taken notice:

"The French TV ad has truly been the last straw. To allow people to believe that McDonald’s is the kind of partner portrayed in this ad would be a complete failure on our part to serve as an honest and trusted resource for LGBT people and our families to help make informed decisions in the marketplace."

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  1. This actually pisses me both a gay and black man. For this man to blatantely segregate mass media for his product, a product he would have no trouble gaining gay money from but not feel comfortable selling the product to is deplorable and not at all justifiable for him to actually SPEAK on behalf of Mcdonalds so freely about this prejudice.
    This really is nothing short of prejudice...the least of which I'd expect to come from him.

    Can anyone provide ONE contact info (email) for us to touch base with.

    Please don't get complacent and just say "well, I don't eat at Mcdonalds"....some of your friends may and they deserve to know of this (very PROUD) display of prejudice practices on Mcdonalds behalf, but more importantly....Mcdonalds themselves needs to know.

    Towleroad, I sincerely hope you keep us posted on this rather disturbing- yet very telling- incident.

    Posted by: Mark J. | Jun 15, 2010 9:18:42 AM

  2. Unless you're fine with homosexuality, I don't beleve for two seconds that you don't impose your beliefs on other people.

    Posted by: joe c | Jun 15, 2010 9:21:03 AM

  3. Add me to the list of those who think that the words quoted here do not offer unambiguous support for the conclusion that Thompson is saying that "homosexuality is offensive to Christians, like himself." He doesn't expressly state at any point what his "own personal beliefs" as a "Christian" are.

    Posted by: Patric | Jun 15, 2010 9:22:21 AM

  4. " McDonald's, there are core values we stand for ..."

    Read: I'm a homophobe and am Christian and will be imposing that belief on this brand any which way I can.

    Disgusting that this can be tolerated in 2010, but it won't so long as there's people like me around.

    BOYCOTT McDonald's and get the word out as to why (facebook, twitter, myspace)

    This man is living in the wrong century and country if he thinks this can fly by with out negative backlash.

    Posted by: Lionsgate | Jun 15, 2010 9:22:48 AM

  5. "Having said that, at McDonald's, there are core values we stand for and the world is getting much closer. So we have a lot of conversations."

    This is the only sentence that is subject to multiple interpretations. You can either read the core values as him talking about (right-wing) Christian values or as other values the company holds (diversity, etc.) despite how things might be in the rest of the world.

    I am willing to give him the benefit of the doubt that he meant values in mushy corporate terms, but you all can take it however you like.

    Or he could be advertising the core value meals.

    Posted by: Michael | Jun 15, 2010 9:24:33 AM

  6. @Eugene: To answer your question, albeit a strawman one... yes, if he were a racist, I feel he has the right to his belief, provided he doesn't inflict them on others.

    As to your second comment, I think it's naive to think he was the sole or ultimate decision maker in this. He was merely asked to comment on the French ad. I think his first responsibility is to the stockholders: sell more burgers. I would imagine his personal feelings would be subordinated to that goal.

    Posted by: Dave Johnson | Jun 15, 2010 9:25:23 AM

  7. Gays will defend a straight person telling you you're lesser than RIGHT TO YOUR FACE and shake his hand. The gays brushing this off disgust me. You have no self worth. Go sleep with the enemy (before they call you a f8g, who will burn in hell after catching Aids...but you won't mind, at least they're talking to you, right?)

    Complacent gays, be gone. You undermine the good work of the many LGBT before us.

    Posted by: Dash | Jun 15, 2010 9:26:10 AM

  8. To those finding no harm in this man's remark as a representative; substitute ANY other minority group in place of gays in terms of what he says.

    Would you be so forgiving if this was written by a white marketing exec of McD's who spoke about black individuals and realizing a commercial with two black actors would not be appropriate for airwaves in the United States?

    If not, then it's tie you go a little inward and ask yourself why you feel the gay community is below other minority communities.

    Posted by: Dash | Jun 15, 2010 9:28:46 AM

  9. "Cultures are very different around the world"

    "...I'm a Christian"

    "But, you're right, that commercial won't show in the United States"

    OK, I can connect the dots among these various statements and interpret McDonald's position that the American "Christian culture" is so unaccepting of gays that it won't air an American version of this French TV ad. It does indeed seem to support Andy's headline.

    Posted by: Rob | Jun 15, 2010 9:29:29 AM

  10. @Jedi, @donattavio, et al: I don't think Andy's stirring the pot here. The real story is in the NGLCC link -- Thompson and McD's are willing to market, sell and make money from anyone regardless of their beliefs, but they aren't supportive of them. Those are two different things. As Mohandas Gandhi said: "I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."

    Posted by: dm | Jun 15, 2010 9:29:33 AM

  11. Well said, DASH.

    Posted by: Ronald McDonald | Jun 15, 2010 9:30:44 AM

  12. Last I heard, France is also largely a "Christian" nation. (Catholics, for Mr. Thompson's information, are considered Christian, just as are Baptists.) Mr. Thompson is correct in other respects, though. The French ad would cause an uproar in the U.S. and undermine McDonald's sales. The difference which he refuses to acknowledge between the culture of France and that of America is that the Americans are fugging homophobes and bigots and the French are not.

    Posted by: candideinnc | Jun 15, 2010 9:31:25 AM

  13. he said the commercial will not air in the U.S because of the implications of (of gay)- he said that and some of you still see no wrong in that?
    Me thinks a McDonalds PR person is spamming the comments section.
    I agree with other poster, if he were saying this about black or latino folks not being in a commercial because a majority of America is white the very same people defending him pulling the plug on gays would be enraged, especially if he were white. Oh man, the white trash jokes would not end. actually sickening reading anyone defend this, especially knowing they wouldn't defend it had it been said about any other demographic, or the marginalization of air time of any other demographic because they aren't the majority. OPEN YOUR DAMN EYES!

    Posted by: BumbleBeeLee | Jun 15, 2010 9:34:01 AM

  14. @Dave Johnson

    "yes, if he were a racist, I feel he has the right to his belief, provided he doesn't inflict them on others."

    That's not what you said about Don Thompson, though. You said that he is "a prime example of how things should be". Would you really say that a racist or a neo-Nazi is "a prime example of how things should be"?

    "I think his first responsibility is to the stockholders: sell more burgers. I would imagine his personal feelings would be subordinated to that goal."

    Do you believe that he would decide not to show a commercial featuring black people if he believed that it would help McDonalds "sell more burgers"?

    Posted by: Eugene | Jun 15, 2010 9:35:04 AM

  15. If he said this about Latinos/blacks/Christians there would be riots from here to Mercury and their entire marketing committee would be fired before they turned their Blackberry on. Says a commercial featuring a gay person is not part of their core values? not much outrage over an OUTRAGEOUS claim and proceeding. I plan on letting everyone I know including a strongly worded email to corporate about this.

    Posted by: Blake | Jun 15, 2010 9:40:31 AM

  16. time for a quick switch to wendy's or burgerking. the foods better anyway. the franchise owners and stock holders should stand and demand this man step down. how can a very prejudiced man run a large company. it is public owned and must adhere to anti discrimination laws. boycott mcdonald's.

    Posted by: walter | Jun 15, 2010 9:40:45 AM

  17. OK, I had to go back and read again & I'm not seeing the hate/homophobia/reason to get my knickers all in a twist.

    Thompson is saying that McDonalds does has an inclusive set of core values (globally), but they're not about to wade into the middle of a controversy by running this commercial in the U.S. There's nothing to be gained from it but controversy and McD's is not trying to get involved in any controversy. The company didn't become a giant by being on the cutting edge of anything, they err on the side of caution and play it safe. IMO, that's not homophobia, its advertising.

    Posted by: Ealan | Jun 15, 2010 9:41:38 AM

  18. Do Wendy's or Burger King or Hardee's have gay friendly ads? When they do, I suggest it is time to boycott McDonald's. After all, the French ad is a novelty in Europe and show an effort to open up to the gay community. They are leading the way internationally on this issue. I agree that there is Amerrican bigotry that is objectionable, and that Thompson's remarks were not helpful. However, punishing the leader in gay friendly advertising for not being fast enough to reach out to gays in the US markets seems self-defeating.

    Posted by: candideinnc | Jun 15, 2010 9:46:40 AM

  19. Some of you idiots need to take a reading comprehension course -unless it's Thompson's assitant trolling on here-

    Break it down for those of you who didn't make it past the 4th grade:


    Now spin that shit and tell me it's acceptable (Don Thompson's press ilk).

    Posted by: tiki | Jun 15, 2010 9:46:42 AM

  20. *I've never shied away from the fact that I'm a Christian
    *Having said that, at McDonald's, there are core values we stand for
    *But, you're right, that commercial won't show in the United States.

    I don't know, but those 3 statements pretty much say it for me. I've worked for a firm that dealt with McDonalds...they are conservative and corporate. I wonder if Rand Paul or any other racist knows that the COO of McDonald's is black. I wonder if the COO has any idea of that kind of "impact". What a douche.

    Posted by: woodroad34d | Jun 15, 2010 9:47:59 AM

  21. Self loathing queers, get on the back of the bus where you belong and let the rest of us pioneering equality take the bull by the horn.

    If you don't feel gays should be represented, when millions upon millions of us live in this country, then stop representing us and go back in the closet.

    To the rest of you rational thinking LGBT people, believe that you do have a place and role in mainstream society and don't need to hide in a gay ghetto of every city. Our relationships, struggles and trimpuhs are just as valid as hetros and should be given the same amount of respect and devotion. Fight on!
    Just sent my email to the headquarters, oddly with my son waking up to eat breakfest, and hope you will too.

    Posted by: Back bone...find one. | Jun 15, 2010 9:55:14 AM

  22. France is a country that has explicitly banned gay adoptions on a federal level. While it has a civil partnership that is open to gays and lesbians, it's not marriage, and France won't consider gay marriage for the forseeable future. So why did McDonalds run the ad there? Maybe they figured they could capitalize on the upswing in pro-American sentiment since the last election (The French people I meet still congratulate us on it). What would have been brave for McDonalds would have been to have an ad featuring some of France's ethnic minorities.

    Posted by: Tom | Jun 15, 2010 9:58:42 AM

  23. I suggest that the same questions asked of the COO of McDonald's be asked of the COO's of the other fast food chains. Also, ask them if their foreign markets advertise to gays, and if not, why not.

    Posted by: candideinnc | Jun 15, 2010 10:00:25 AM

  24. It's very telling that the post regarding Arizona illegal immigration bill, or a discrimination topic about any ethnic minority group gets far more outcry and passion from gay posters on here than a television exec (or in this case, COO) saying a commercial with gay people will not air in our country. It fascinates me when gays have far more fire in them toward defending other minorities, but will jump to justifying homophobia right under their nostril toward gays. It's moments like these where I look around the progress of other minorities and realize our road leads to a dead end because of the people on it. If your own community does not have passion behind it's causes and it's tribulations, how do you expect others to?

    Posted by: Denise | Jun 15, 2010 10:04:14 AM

  25. Not only does this confirm that McDonald's is run by homophobes, it is just the latest reason to never eat there. McD's heavily markets and peddles its nutritionally void poison to minorities and the poor. Two groups who traditionally don't have equal access to the health care that they will eventually need from eating this crap. Obesity, diabetes, heart disease...Oh yeah, I'm lovin' it.

    Posted by: gaylib | Jun 15, 2010 10:05:51 AM

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