Barbershop: Kellogg's, Breitbart And Self-Tying Shoes
MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:
Now it's time for a trip to the Barbershop. That's where we gather a group of interesting folks to talk about what's in the news and what's on our minds. Joining us for a shape-up this weekend are Jolene Ivey. She's a former Democratic state lawmaker from Maryland. She's now a public relations consultant. Puneet Ahluwalia is a businessman. He's active in the local Republican Party in northern Virginia, and he's serving on the Trump Asian Advisory Committee. And Farajii Muhammad is the host of Listen Up! That's a radio show on member station WEAA in Baltimore. He's also director of a youth organization called Peace By Piece. Welcome back, everybody. Thank you all so much for joining us.
FARAJII MUHAMMAD: Thank you.
JOLENE IVEY: Hey, Michel.
PUNEET AHLUWALIA: Thank you.
MARTIN: No newbies here. So let me start with this whole question about corporations and political statements. And we're talking about this now because of Kellogg's - you know Kellogg's. If you had cereal or a Fiber Bar for breakfast this morning, chances are Kellogg made it for you. Now, the company pulled its ads from the news outlet Breitbart earlier this week. Kris Charles, a spokeswoman for Kellogg's said, quote, "we regularly work with our media-buying partners to ensure our ads do not appear on sites that are not aligned with our values as a company," unquote.
Now, Breitbart reacted furiously to this and has started a campaign against the company. They say they want you to l'eggo your Eggos because they say that that is disrespectful to their readers. And, of course, some background here - former Breitbart News executive Steve Bannon will be appointed chief strategist in the new Trump White House, and his company, Breitbart - his former company - has been much criticized for featuring content that many people consider racist and anti-Semitic and misogynistic, a platform for the so-called alt-right. So, Jolene, you want to start this off? What do you think about this whole thing?
IVEY: Well, I think that both sides have a right to their their position. I think it's great when people, you know, use their wallets to speak. And I find it kind of hilarious that Breitbart wants to say that they're this pro-family organization, and they have all this positive content and how dare Kellogg say this about them. I mean, I'm just kind of shocked that they have the nerve to come up with any of that. I'm glad that Kellogg is doing what they're doing. And, although, I haven't done it for years, I want to go out and stock up on Pop-Tarts right now.
MARTIN: Right this minute. Puneet, what about you?
AHLUWALIA: I think Kellogg is at fault. What has America's food habits got to do with your social and political leaning? Why are you getting into that? And especially when Breitbart has 45 million readers and...
MARTIN: Well, so they say.
AHLUWALIA: Well, still...
MARTIN: So they say.
AHLUWALIA: Well, again, claims are made by Kellogg also which is...
MARTIN: ...(Unintelligible) publicly traded company.
AHLUWALIA: I respect that, but still at the same time, you are trying to push your opinion on the listeners and the readers. And Breitbart responded back rightfully.
MUHAMMAD: It doesn't make sense. It's like get over it. This is like spilled milk for Breitbart. I think at this point, I mean - you have 45 million readers. You can find other sponsors, but it's the simple fact that, you know, you have these conservatives right now that feel like they actually have an exclusive license on the brand of America.
And that's the problem at this point, and so if Breitbart doesn't respond, well then so be it. It is what it is. Breitbart, get over it. This is just - this is absolute nonsense. Kellogg's has over 30-something products on the marketplace at this point. So you're going to tell everybody to just stop eating cereal and stop eating Pop-Tarts. And - come on, come on. It's ridiculous.
AHLUWALIA: And that's exactly what I said. What does America's food habit got to do with the political and social leaning?
MARTIN: So it's my understanding that this is generated in part both internally and externally - that there are employees who felt that this was offensive. What about the Chick-Fil-A on the other side of it when progressives didn't want to eat at Chick-Fil-A? Did you think that was ridiculous, too?
AHLUWALIA: Again, Chick-Fil-A is, again, a great organization giving great food. And they are run by Christian values, and that's what is important to them and that's what they follow. But, again, they serve people from all backgrounds and all ethnicities. Kellogg made a very important decision not to serve and not to market on Breitbart's publication.
MARTIN: So let's go to the other way. There's another sort of related story here that a number of progressive non-profits - progressive non-profits Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, a number of others - are now reporting a surge in donations. These are the opposite of a boycott. And there's even a website called Rage Donate, and some are getting cars along with these donations saying that they are encouraging family and friends to donate to these progressive organizations instead of exchanging gifts.
And some are even saying that they're - they are donating in the name of family members who voted for President-elect Donald Trump, and that's the way that they are translating their rage and disappointment. So, Puneet, why don't I start with you on this? What do you think about that?
AHLUWALIA: Michel, I feel giving is a personal choice. And if people feel that's what they're calling is, they should do that, and they feel that they should give to Rage and Planned Parenthood - that's their calling. But, at the same time, I would rather give my dollars going to making somebody's life better enhanced in education. Whatever is you're calling - I think giving is a personal thing. That's what I stick at.
MARTIN: Jolene, what do you think?
IVEY: Well, I think that what we just said. It's the same thing. I mean, giving is a personal thing - well, so is what kind of cereal you buy. The Rage donations - I think it's awesome when people give to Planned Parenthood in the name of Mike Pence. It's like the best thing. I want them to also give to the Whitman-Walker Clinic in his name also. I think it would be wonderful, but I don't think that we should do it kind of in anger at your family member. I think that that would be wrong because your relationship with your mother or your sister or your brother is going to last a long, long time and hopefully it will at least outlast this administration.
MARTIN: Do you think it's spiteful? I mean, if someone were to say, for example - let's turn it around, Jolene, and someone were to donate to a cause that they know that you disagree with.
IVEY: Like the NRA, for example.
MARTIN: In your - even though you actually shoot and actually are quite a good shot.
IVEY: I do shoot.
MARTIN: So would that offend you? If a family member said, you know what? I'm donating to the NRA in your name, Jolene...
IVEY: Yes. It would...
MARTIN: Would you consider that spiteful?
IVEY: I would find that very spiteful, and, fortunately, no one in my family would do that. I'm so glad to say that.
MARTIN: (Laughter). OK.
IVEY: I think that really people should consider their personal relationships and put them in a separate category, but, politically, I think it's great when you use that way to protest and give to wonderful organizations like Planned Parenthood of which I'm on the board for the Planned Parenthood of Metro Washington...
MARTIN: OK. Just Getting that in there. Farajii?
MUHAMMAD: Like, you know, the ACLU - they saw a nearly 1,000 percent increase on - leading up to Giving Tuesday, the Trevor Project - they work with LGBTQ community. They saw $85,000 over there in two weeks. The - I think it's a great idea. But the biggest challenge was - it's not going to be raising money, but for these organizations to really be on the forefront of accountability and watch-dogging because those who gave this are now going to be expecting something to happen at this point.
They're going to be expecting Planned Parenthood, ACLU and all these groups to really be on top of the Trump administration. And the concern is if they don't...
MARTIN: Why is that wrong? What's wrong with that?
MUHAMMAD: No, no - that's what I'm saying. That's not wrong. But I know that working in the nonprofit sector - I've done it for many years - there's been a lot of political red tape. There's a lot of "staffing," quote, unquote. There's a lot of programming and then sometimes, unfortunately, there are a lot of folks who are just working in a nonprofit field just managing change and not really impacting or affecting change. So it's going to be important that, you know, folks are giving money like this. I mean, ACLU saw $1.7 million. If they're giving money like this, we need to see these folks really out and about and really, you know, putting the Trump administration to the fire.
MARTIN: OK. And finally today - and this is a little different - so switching gears here, speaking of giving money, a lot of money, to something you believe in, Nike announced earlier this week that their new self-tying shoe...
MARTIN: ...Is ready to hit shelves. The HyperAdapt 1.0 is a battery-powered shoe that ties itself and - wait for it - it goes for $720. I'm going to go with my guys first on this because I will mention that some of our male colleagues here accused me of a double-standard when I kind of dropped my coffee. And I heard that price, and they said what about all those Manolos and Jimmy Choos? That...
MARTIN: So, Farajii, I'll go to you first on this.
MUHAMMAD: First thing - why?
MARTIN: Is that on your Christmas list?
MUHAMMAD: No, not at all. Not at all. But why? Why is this - here's the big irony about technology - that we put so much effort and time and work into advancing technology and then...
MUHAMMAD: ...We're making technology to make...
MARTIN: ...Your list because I wasn't giving it to you...
MUHAMMAD: ...Us lazier.
MARTIN: I'm - go ahead.
MUHAMMAD: It just makes us lazier. I mean, now we're at a point where we're instead of opening a book, we're downloading. We have a device now where instead of you walking to turn your lights on, you could just say lights. And now you have a shoe where you - look, hey, man, if you're having a problem bending over, just get the self-tying shoe. Nike, why? Why? $720 for this? Yeah. I could see people in my neighborhood really wearing this - not. Sorry, not sorry.
MARTIN: (Laughter) Puneet, what about you?
AHLUWALIA: I'm still a Ferragamo guy. I would rather spend a few hundred bucks or six, 700 bucks on Ferragamos.
AHLUWALIA: But, as you know, the whole...
MARTIN: Oh, and Ferragamos. Oh, I see. Note to Santa.
MARTIN: OK. Got it.
AHLUWALIA: Not the Nike 750, but, at the same time, I guess you heard the saying about fire's a good servant but a bad master. What we're making technology is a bad master which is basically, as my friend said here, is it's just ruining our life. And it's become a master of everything. And the next thing we know, we're going to have flying shoes and walking - self-walking shoes, so you don't have to do anything. So I...
MARTIN: Nobody thinks this is awesome? This is fascinating. I...
MUHAMMAD: Jolene - I know Jolene...
MARTIN: Jolene, go ahead. Well, let me just say with your five boys...
MUHAMMAD: Five boys.
MARTIN: ...And your husband, if that was on the Christmas list, I think you'd probably - what? - move out of your house? I don't know. But...
MARTIN: What do you think?
IVEY: Actually, my boys wear it as a badge of honor that they grew up wearing Payless shoes because there is no way I was ever going to spend even $100 on somebody's tennis shoes. I mean, I really don't spend a lot of money on my own shoes.
MARTIN: Now, wait a minute. You wore it as a badge of honor that they grew up wearing Payless shoes 'cause...
IVEY: No, no, no. You can ask my boys today. OK? They're not wearing Payless today - I will admit that - but they're also not buying $200 tennis shoes. And they will tell you themselves that they are glad that they grew up with that kind of value because now they have their heads on straight.
MARTIN: Well - but I do have to ask you, Jolene, because, as I said, some of my male colleagues here accuse me of being sexist when they said, well, why are you talking about this price tag when surely some of those brands made famous by "Sex And The City" and so forth are equally pricey? What do you think - fair or unfair?
IVEY: Well, it's probably fair, but I'm not one of those people that ever wore shoes like that. And I really cannot wear high heels, so I'm just - that's just not my thing. And I just don't wear expensive clothes at all.
MARTIN: OK. No comment on my end.
MARTIN: That's Jolene Ivey, Puneet Ahluwalia and Farajii Muhammad, and they were all kind enough to join us here in our studios in Washington, D.C. Thank you all so much for joining us. Happy holidays. And you can privately slip me your list to Santa.
AHLUWALIA: Thank you.
MUHAMMAD: Thank you, Michel.
IVEY: Thanks, Michel. You, too.
AHLUWALIA: Thanks for having us. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.