Beyoncé broke the Internet this weekend with an electrifying Coachella set that featured everything from costume changes and a marching band to a reunion of Destiny’s Child. But while Queen Bey was slaying Indio, California, the person making the most bank on the annual music fest is Coachella’s owner, homophobic Republican billionaire Philip Anshutz.
Through The Anschutz Foundation, the 78-year-old entrepreneur has funneled hundreds of thousands of dollars to fight LGBT equality, reproductive rights, legalized pot, and even the acceptance of climate change.
Anschutz was first called out in a 2016 Washington Post article that revealed he’d made donations to anti-LGBT hate groups like the Family Research Council and the Alliance Defending Freedom, which is defending Masterpiece Cakeshop in its Supreme Court case. In all, The Anschutz Foundation gave $190,000 to those groups between 2010 and 2013.
At the time, Anschutz insisted he wasn’t a homophobe. “I unequivocally support the rights of all people without regard to sexual orientation,” he said in a statement calling the accusations “fake news.”
He also made a sizable donation to Elton Johns AIDS Foundation.
Statement from Philip Anschutz, Chairman of AEG: pic.twitter.com/zsNLRnE0Nd
— AEG (@AEGworldwide) April 17, 2018
But according to the Anschutz Foundation’s 2016 tax returns, he kept giving to other organizations with anti-LGBT agendas, including $40,000 to the Navigators Christian ministry, which claims homosexuality leads to “sexual brokenness,” and $50,000 to Dare 2 Share Ministries, which has called homosexuality “a Satanic perversion of God’s gift of sex.”
In addition to anti-LGBT groups, Anschutz has thrown money at pro-gun organizations, anti-choice groups, and the “immigration-reduction organization” NumbersUSA. The foundation has also donated more than $200,000 to anti-marijuana efforts in Colorado, which decriminalized pot in 2012.
And according to the Daily Beast, Anschutz has also kept the coffers of Republicans well-stuffed in 2017: Close to $200,000 has gone to SuperPACs and Republican politicians like exiting Speaker Paul Ryan, anti-marriage equality Rep. Scott Tipton, and Senator Cory Gardner, who fought gun control legislation after the Las Vegas shooting last fall.
The controversy lead critics to call for a boycott of the festival, which brought in more than $114 million in 2017, and put progressive fans of acts like Haim, the Weeknd and, yes, Beyoncé, in a tough spot. For some the choice was easy: Actress Cara Delevigne was among those boycotting Coachella, explaining in an Instagram story that Anschutz’s views were an anathema to her own.
But should a boycott include social media reaction? Should we not watch YouTube clips of what everyone (including The New York Times) is calling one of the greatest live performances of all time? Sure, watching Beyoncé on Twitter doesn’t put money directly into Anschutz’s hateful hands, but it does increased Coachella’s overall reach.
And should a boycott extend to artists performing at Coachella? Bey generally avoids overt political statements, and honestly, trying to boycott the queen would be a lost cause from the start.
Maybe Delevingne has the right attitude. After Beyoncé’s set, she posted on Instagram that the performance “made me burst into tears and sent shivers down my spine.”
“I still refuse to go to a festival that is owned by someone who is anti-LGBT and pro-gun,” added Delevingne, who previously dated Coachella performer St. Vincent. “I am able to shame that man and the festival and show my appreciation of an artist at the same time. Just because I love Beyoncé doesn’t mean I now love Coachella. I still wouldn’t go.”