In 1978, Ken Langone was the lead banker for Home Depot’s IPO. Langone is frequently referred to as a “co-founder” of the company. He sat on the board for 30 years. Using math, 1978+30=2008, which means Ken Langone has not been connected to Home Depot in 5 years. This fact did not stop liberals from calling for a boycott of Home Depot after Langone was interviewed by CNBC.
Langone, a self-described devout Catholic, shared a meeting he had with Cardinal Timothy Dolan regarding statements made by Pope Francis about wealth. Pope Francis believes that it is impossible to worship both God and money, and coincidentally, so did the apostle Matthew. This has wealthy conservatives in a veritable tizzy, because they have been balancing this hypocrisy for generations. How dare some upstart who won’t even sit in a golden throne tell them they can’t worship money and follow the message of Christ.
Mr. Langone is spearheading a $180 million effort to refurbish St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York, and claims he was approached by a wealthy potential donor who was getting cold feet. Since this anonymous rich person was considering a seven-figure donation, Langone immediately pounced on Cardinal Dolan to hopefully get some advice. Cardinal Dolan, according to the CNBC interview, assured Langone that the gentleman in question was “misunderstanding” the pope’s message.
The message that is upsetting so many uber-wealthy conservatives comes from Pope Francis’ first teaching. He criticized “an economy of exclusion and inequality,” blaming ideologies that “defend the absolute autonomy of the marketplace and financial speculation.” Zing. The pope has also called on the wealthy to “never tire of working for a more just world, marked by greater solidarity. No one can remain insensitive to the inequalities that persist in the world.”
Rich conservatives are whining because they think Pope Francis is telling them they are insensitive to the poor. What the pope is actually saying is that to those much is given, much is expected – we have way too much financial inequality in the world and in many countries, the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. And what rich people are trying not to say out loud – but I’m guessing they’re thinking it – is so the hell what?
I would bet being a really rich conservative Christian is very confusing right now. On the one hand, they hoard money. On the other hand, they supposedly follow the message of a guy who specifically told them not to do that. But I digress; back to Mr. Langone.
Ken Langone supported Mitt Romney for president. He threw a fundraiser for Romney in 2012 that raked in three times more money than anyone expected. Langone has called President Obama “petulant” and “unpresidential” And according to Mother Jones, Ken Langone is a prodigious donor to Republican and conservative groups, including the American Action Network, the “dark-money outfit” run by former Minnesota senator, Norm Coleman. He has sided occasionally with Democrats like Chuck Schumer and Carolyn Maloney and even told Lou Dobbs that rich people need to pay more taxes to help bring down the debt.
So yes, Ken Langone is a really, really rich guy who isn’t a big fan of most liberal ideas and is struggling with Pope Francis. He raised a ton of money for Mitt Romney and worked with Norm Coleman (ick). He’s called the president names. He was targeted by Elliot Spitzer. Ken Langone is all those things, but what he isn’t is the CEO of Home Depot. He never has been.
Imagine my surprise on Thursday when suddenly I started seeing calls to boycott Home Depot because a guy who hasn’t been connected to the company in five years said something icky about the pope. Even more surprising were the large groups of liberals telling the rest of us to shop at Lowe’s.
Let’s look at the reason I don’t shop at Lowe’s, the reason a lot of people I know don’t shop at Lowe’s and why sometimes, Americans have memories like sieves. Think back, back, back to a television show called “All-American Muslim.” In December of 2011, Lowe’s yanked all their advertising off that program. The Florida Family Association was thrilled, as they were the primary group pushing for advertisers to cave to Islamophobia and do exactly what Lowe’s did. FFA, in case you aren’t familiar with their “group,” is run by one guy who hates everything fun and/or different.
Now let’s look at what Home Depot did in response to a hate group. The American Family Association targeted Home Depot for their support of gay rights, encouraging their rabidly right-wing followers to boycott the company. Home Depot, unlike Lowe’s, didn’t cave. They very politely and very firmly told the AFA no thank you, go away. As far as I can tell, there has been no policy change at Home Depot: the company continues to support the LGBT community.
But yes, by all means, let’s boycott Home Depot because an angry rich guy who hasn’t been affiliated with the company for five years is acting like an angry rich guy. And to show Home Depot we’re serious about our liberal values, let’s shop at Lowe’s – the company which, in an act of supreme cowardice, pulled every ad from “All-American Muslim.”
There is a moral here – a lesson we can learn. At our fingertips, we have millions of websites, documents, files and facts that are accessible in seconds. If someone had used those resources before screaming “BOYCOTT,” they would have discovered every single thing I’ve covered in this piece. Most conservatives believe whatever they are told. We can’t be like that. We must be empowered enough to look beyond the rhetoric and the noise, and we must be empowered enough to stand up for the truth. Especially uncomfortable truth. It is only when we leave our comfort zone that we discover who we really are and what we really believe. We simply cannot fall for every hysterical article we read. Take the time to sort it out.
“The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.” – George Orwell