'Woke' fried chicken? Fast food chain at center of US culture wars
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'Woke' fried chicken? Fast food chain at center of US culture wars

Chick-fil-A is an American fast food brand beloved for its fried chicken sandwiches and milkshakes.
Chick-fil-A is an American fast food brand beloved for its fried chicken sandwiches and milkshakes.

WASHINGTON - The "Lord's chicken" no more: US fast food chain Chick-fil-A -- beloved among Americans for its sandwiches, nuggets and milkshakes -- found itself on the receiving end of right-wing ire this week, accused of succumbing to "woke" ideology.

After conservative customers realized the company employs a "diversity, equity and inclusion" representative, it has joined the ranks of other seemingly innocuous brands now facing calls for boycotts, such as mega supermarket Target and Bud Light beer.

Until recently, conservatives had seen the restaurant as one of their own, with its website explaining that its locations are closed on Sundays so the Baptist founder "and his employees could set aside one day to rest and worship if they choose."

And in 2012, it was progressives who spurned Chick-fil-A's offerings for supporting anti-gay marriage efforts.

But the tables have turned, as right-wing influencers complain on social media about a statement from its vice president of diversity, equity and inclusion who says the company is committed "to ensuring mutual respect, understanding and dignity everywhere we do business."

Though that position has already been filled for a few years, angry social media commentators seem to have only just noticed this week.

"Disappointing. Et tu Chick-fil-A?" asked former Trump-era Justice Department official Jeff Clark on Twitter, quoting Julius Caesar's realization in Latin that his friend Brutus was among his killers.

And contributor to conservative organization Turning Point USA, Morgonn McMichael, accused the chain in a viral video of deciding to "bow down to the woke lords."

"Chick-fil-A you are no longer the Lord's chicken. You're actually the woke chicken, and I'm really upset about it as a Christian woman," she says.

McMichael and her friend then complain about having to visit a rival chain instead -- even though they do not seem as enthused about the fried poultry options at the new place.

McMichael later claimed the video "was only about 30 percent serious."

- 'Toxic' -

Chick-fil-A is only the latest US company to take center stage in the "culture wars" -- the often sudden and intense controversies over issues like LGBTQ rights, guns and education, many of which involve everyday aspects of American life.

Giant supermarket chain Target last week announced it would remove some LGBTQ pride merchandise from its shelves after receiving intense backlash from conservative media personalities -- and even facing threats against employees.

The company had launched a line of items marking June's LGBTQ Pride Month, including rainbow-adorned T-shirts, party decorations and cooking supplies.

Earlier this year, it was iconic American beer Bud Light in the anti-woke spotlight, for partnering with a popular transgender social media influencer.

Many social media users now say they've totally given up the brand, and Florida Governor Ron DeSantis, a Republican presidential candidate, has vowed to never drink Bud Light again, loathe to support anything "woke" -- a somewhat amorphous term used by conservatives to describe progressive cultural values.

The slogan "Go woke, go broke" has circulated on social media to encourage such boycotts.

"The goal is to make 'pride' toxic for brands," conservative commentator Matt Walsh said on Twitter.

"If they decide to shove this garbage in our face, they should know that they'll pay a price. It won't be worth whatever they think they'll gain," he added. "First Bud Light and now Target. Our campaign is making progress. Let's keep it going.

With the 2024 election campaign looming, the culture wars don't seem poised to run out of steam any time soon, and their next targets may be just as unpredictable as their last.

"If you would've told me a year ago that a meal of Chick-fil-A washed down by Bud Light would trigger the (conservatives) I would've asked what you were smoking," independent journalist Aaron Rupar observed.

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