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BuzzFeed Draws the Line

June 15, 2016
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Last week BuzzFeed CEO Jonah Peretti made the bold decision to cancel its advertising deal with the Republican National Committee. The reason? Donald Trump’s many and continued offensive remarks about…well…nearly every race, religion, nationality and gender.

Donald Trump is “directly opposed to the freedoms of our employees in the United States and around the world,” CEO Jonah Peretti wrote in an email to employees.

Commenting in a June 7 Wall Street Journal article, Peretti acknowledged it is not the norm for an organization to turn away money, but said, “In some cases, we must make business exceptions: we don’t run cigarette ads because they are hazardous to our health, and we won’t accept Trump ads for the exact same reason.”

Kudos to Peretti for having the courage to draw the line on what is acceptable.

Many talk about how nasty politics has become over the years.  Yet few have the courage to stand up and say enough is enough – especially when it comes to turning down revenue.

But we all know that such rude, offensive behavior is not confined to politics; it’s just more visible because it’s played out on the nightly news and in newspaper headlines.

Sadly, many in business also feel entitled to “speak their mind” and hide behind the veil of “that’s just who I am; get over it” as though that justifies their insults.

Everyone has the right to freedom of speech — that’s one of the traits that makes America great. But there are limits. Just as you can’t falsely yell, “Fire,” in a crowded movie theater, purposely hurtful and inflammatory language — while not illegal — still should not be tolerated.

As communicators, we have a responsibility to be good stewards of words and the affect they have on people, and we need to use our craft wisely. By not taking a stand on abusive, unwarranted speech, like Peretti did, we become enablers, giving bullies in politics and in business a platform to say whatever comes to mind. And tolerating such rude and offensive language, in my opinion, is not the way to make America great again.

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