You’d think that any organization facing financial issues would be thrilled to accept a hefty donation. For Planned Parenthood, for example, a check for $500,000 could go a long way in helping women get access to health care. Except, perhaps, when the name on the check is Tucker Max.
For those who are unfamiliar with Max, he’s the author of the books I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell and Sloppy Seconds: The Tucker Max Leftovers, which chronicle his supposedly real-life escapades of drunken debauchery and sexual conquests. Though the books have earned him a fortune and a huge fan following, they’ve also (unsurprisingly) earned him a reputation as a cad.
But in a recent Forbes profile, Max claimed he had changed his ways and he wasn’t the callous miscreant he once depicted. And what better way to drive home the image of a reformed bad boy than a huge donation to a women’s organization? Tucker could be a hero for a female cause! Well, that’s how Max’s brand strategist Ryan Holiday, who suggested the Planned Parenthood donation, thought such a move would be perceived. (For his part, Max originally went to Holiday looking for a way to relieve a “huge tax burden” and “promote [his] new book at the same time.” Helping women wasn’t mentioned as a top priority.)
Except for one small problem: Planned Parenthood wasn’t up for the deal. After some reported initial excitement and a scheduled meeting with Max, the organization informed him that they wouldn’t be able to take his donation as they were “concerned about the perception of [his] writing.”
Cue the backlash. Holiday took to Forbes once more to slam the organization for turning down the money and ignoring Max’s “good intentions.” And Max, taking umbrage for being refused, wrote on his blog that Planned Parenthood denied him because they “were worried more about other people’s perceptions of the donation than helping women.”
The fact that Max and Holiday can’t recognize why Planned Parenthood would turn down the donation suggests they don’t know much about the organization in the first place (if, in fact, their “outrage” isn’t a mere publicity stunt).
First of all, it’s doubtful that Max is doing this solely out of a genuine desire to help women. Again, his strategist has said that the idea originated because Max wanted a tax refund and some good press. There’s nothing wrong with that, of course, but it’s worth mentioning that Max has previously made disparaging remarks about the organization on his Twitter feed (though the tweets have since been deleted). That’s not a deal breaker because not every person who’s donated to charity did it purely out of the goodness of their hearts. It’s still suspicious, though, especially when compounded with the fact that, in exchange for his donation, Max wanted a clinic named after him because he found the idea “funny.”
Offensive as that might be, it doesn’t get to the heart of Planned Parenthood’s rejection of the check. Neither does Max’s suggestion that the group refused the money because of what Max calls “elitism” that led them to believe “that a CLOSED clinic is better than one with [Max's] name on it.” It’s quite obvious that Planned Parenthood simply weighed the pros and cons. The organization wasn’t choosing between one closed clinic and a Tucker Max clinic. It was choosing between no clinics and a Tucker Max clinic.
While Holiday writes that the donation would have been a case of “a win-win-win-win situation. Cut a check, keep a clinic open,” it quite obviously wasn’t that simple for the beleaguered organization. As Jill Filipovic points out at Feministe: “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.”
For an organization that is constantly under attack from a right-wing base with a heavy religious following, accepted support from a man whose reputation is so incompatible with both Planned Parenthood and the GOP’s supposed values is nothing if not a political liability. Remember, this is the man who wants his name on a health clinic that provides abortions, among other services, because it would be funny. Associating themselves with Max would have all but guarantee that Planned Parenthood would face political backlash of some sort. It may be sad that an organization dedicated to providing women’s health services has to turn down a hefty donation in order to play political ball, but that’s the type of game that’s currently being played in the U.S.
And while Max seems to be taking this quite personally — he says he’s over the incident that happened last August, though both he and Holiday are only now writing about it — in reality, Planned Parenthood isn’t anti-Tucker. They’re pro–Planned Parenthood and are making moves in their own self-interest as an organization. You’d think of all people, Tucker Max would at least understand that.