JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The founder of Chick-fil-A has never hid his Baptist faith. Now, his latest comment has triggered a firestorm.
PR Expert Jason Mudd said the controversy is a nightmare for the company.
"Chick-fil-A is going through a crisis right now," said Mudd.
And the controversy has made biting into one of its chicken sandwiches a political statement. If you support the company, it could mean you support a ban of gay marriage. If you don't support the company, it could be interpreted as a stand for gay marriages.
"Gay marriage is a topic of national concern right now with people on both sides," said Jimmy Midyette.
Midyette, attorney for Florida Legal Services, represents the LGBT community. He's concerned the controversy could set back a number of issues affecting the gay community.
"I happen to think it is not the right time," he said.
What started it? In a recent published interview, Dan Cathy, the company president said, "We are very much supportive of the family -- the biblical definition of the family unit ... we are married to our first wives."
Using social media, supporters of same-sex marriage are calling for a 'Kiss in' boycott on August first at the company's restaurants; to counter that, company supporters, like former governor Mike Huckabee, called for a show of force the same day.
"Right now as polarized as we are in this country on these issues," said Midyette, "I think that is the wrong approach."
Here in Jacksonville, there's pending legislation that protects the LGBT community in housing and employment. Midyette is afraid it could be affected by a boycott.
"We're not talking about these national issues which are important which need to be debated," said Midyette, "but I don't think they need to be debated on the sidewalk of Chick-fil-A."
Jason Mudd wrote a book on crisis management for his clients. He said he has been in contact with several North Florida Chick-fil-A operators and their feathers are not ruffled by the controversy.
"They're telling me locally sales are up and it is business as usual," said Mudd.
Mudd said the restaurant is using social media like Facebook to push back at the rumors and the opposition.
Based on his crisis management experience, he said the company will ride out the controversy.
"I think in this particular case," said Mudd, "I think Chick-fil-A is at point I call step ten in crisis management. They're riding out the storm."
Early Friday the company's chief spokesman vice president of public relations, Don Perry, died suddenly. He had been with Chick-fil-A for 29 years.
Greg Thompson, Director of Corporate Communications, did not comment on the controversy.
Thompson in a statement said Chick-fil-A's culture is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect, regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. They will continue this tradition.
First Coast News