Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said Tuesday that it is “stupid” for corporations to take stances on divisive political issues but noted that his criticism did not include their political donations.
“So my warning, if you will, to corporate America is to stay out of politics,” McConnell told reporters at a news conference in Louisville. “It’s not what you’re designed for. And don’t be intimidated by the left into taking up causes that put you right in the middle of one of America’s greatest political debates.”
McConnell’s comments were the third time he’s addressed the corporate backlash over Georgia’s recently passed voting law, which came about in the aftermath of former President Donald Trump’s campaign of falsehoods about the election result in the state last fall.
Late last week, the CEOs of Delta and Coca-Cola — which are based in Atlanta — both condemned the new measure. And on Friday, Major League Baseball pulled this year’s All-Star Game out of Atlanta in protest of that same law. That game will instead be played in Colorado.
Baseball’s decision drew the most outrage from Republicans, with Trump calling for a boycott of baseball and multiple other companies that spoke out against the Georgia law.
“You know, Republicans drink Coca-Cola, too,” McConnell said Tuesday. “And we fly. And we like baseball. This is a pretty competitive political environment in America as I just pointed out a 50-50 Senate. If I were running a major corporation, I’d stay out of politics.”
He added that the latest moves are “irritating one hell of a lot of Republican fans.”
The Georgia episode was just the latest dust-up between corporate America and the Republican Party. Earlier this year, a number of major businesses announced they would no longer be making political donations to anyone who voted against affirming the Electoral College vote count after the deadly Jan. 6 Capitol riot.
The broader divide is the product of the GOP being increasingly driven by “culture war” issues while businesses are under increased pressure from employees, consumers and advocates to take up voting rights, LGBTQ rights and anti-racist efforts.
McConnell, long a champion of big money in politics, said corporations “have a right to participate in a political process” but should do so without alienating “an awful lot of people.”
“I’m not talking about political contributions,” he said of his criticism of corporate leaders speaking out against the Republican legislation. “Most of them contribute to both sides, they have political action committees, that’s fine. It’s legal, it’s appropriate, I support that. I’m talking about taking a position on a highly incendiary issue like this and punishing a community or a state, because you don’t like a particular law that passed, I just think it’s stupid.”
Later Tuesday, President Joe Biden said the decision to remove an event, as MLB did, is “very tough.”
“But I respect them when they make that judgment and I support the judgment they make,” he said, adding, “The best way to deal with this is for Georgia and other states to smarten up. Stop it. Stop it.”
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