CEO who refused to serve Trump supporters speaks out
‘I wouldn’t recommend anyone doing what I did now,’ Mathew Blanchfield says
A New Mexico CEO who publicly shunned President-elect Donald Trump and refused to accept his supporters as clients is stepping away from his company.
Mathew Blanchfield, CEO of the internet marketing firm 1st in SEO, spent a year calling Trump racist, sexist, and fascist, but never seriously considered what would happen if he won the presidential election. Reality quickly set in as Election Day results ticked across his television screen.
Stunned, Blanchfield took a day to collect his thoughts and then announced in a blog post his firm would no longer do business with anyone who voted for or supported the president-elect.
But after weeks of poor publicity for the decision, Blanchfield on Thursday started drawing up documents to give the company to two friends. Once the transfer is complete, he will no longer have a say on which customers they decide to serve, but he hopes they, too, will not help Trump allies. Blanchfield said he expected to start a nonprofit to further his progressive political beliefs full-time.
“I tried to come up with the boldest, legal, appropriate, positive stance I could make, and this is what I came up with,” Blanchfield told me. “I pray that Trump proves me to be the biggest idiot in the country. I’d much rather that then years from now telling everyone ‘I told you so.’”
Yet, “idiot” is about the least profane said to Blanchfield since his blog post. Word of his anti-Trump stance started as a local news story but soon spread to national outlets. Blanchfield disconnected his office phone because it rang nonstop with calls from angry Trump supporters. More than 50,000 people fired off angry emails and social media messages. Someone posted Blanchfield’s home address online, and someone else posted where to find his children. Once death threats started pouring in, Blanchfield began keeping a gun in his car.
He said he regretted putting his children in danger, but didn’t regret standing up to Trump.
Almost 10 years ago in Albuquerque, N.M., the same city where Blanchfield runs his business, Christian photographer Elaine Huguenin took a moral stance of her own. She informed a lesbian couple she could not photograph their same-sex ceremony based on her Biblical beliefs that marriage is a union between a man and a woman. A New Mexico court ruled against Huguenin, claiming her refusal to photograph a same-sex ceremony was discrimination. In 2014, the U.S. Supreme Court decided not to take on the case, leaving in place the lower court decision and forcing Huguenin to pay a near-$7,000 fine.
Similar cases soon popped up across the country, including those of bakers Aaron and Melissa Kline in Oregon and florist Barronelle Stutzman in Washington, both of whom stood for their Biblical beliefs on marriage. Both cases are pending in court.
But Blanchfield doesn’t like the comparison. He said those Christian business owners are discriminating against people based on “who they are.” But he doesn’t call his own actions discriminatory. He said he doesn’t believe all Trump supporters are inherently bad, but he doesn’t want to help them make money or further their online reach—which is what his business does for clients. Blanchfield said he would feel complicit since he morally objects to pro-Trump messages.
Other business owners who agree with Blanchfield want to avoid associating with Trump or his supporters. Most notably, several fashion designers, including Sophie Theallet, Joseph Altuzarra, and Marc Jacobs, announced they would not design clothes for incoming first lady Melania Trump.
Greg Scott, an Alliance Defending Freedom spokesman, told me no one should have to violate conscience in business, but Blanchfield’s case is not the same as the Christian business owners ADF represents. He said ADF’s clients such as Stutzman simply don’t want to violate their beliefs—Blanchfield is being openly bigoted.
“Folks like that preach peace and unity, but they’re waging war and creating division,” Scott said.
Religion is a protected freedom under the First Amendment, but political beliefs are not always a legal justification for discrimination. There is no protection for political beliefs in New Mexico’s right to refuse service laws. But discriminating based on political ideology is considered a human rights violation by certain jurisdictions, including Seattle and Washington, D.C.
Blanchfield said he started out as a Catholic, converted to Judaism, and now identifies as a Buddhist. He said he disagrees with Christian business owners who won’t compromise their beliefs for homosexuals, but he doesn’t question whether their faith is genuine. The business owner claims he will likely lose hundreds of thousands of dollars because of his anti-Trump stance, but that doesn’t matter to him because he said he became a millionaire in his 20s.
Going forward, he hopes more businesses will take similar stances.
“But I wouldn’t recommend anyone doing what I did now,” Blanchfield said. “It was a terrible business decision.”
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