Food Freedom

Anthony Bourdain: "I support your inalienable right to say really stupid, offensive shit."

CNN host understands people have the right to hold incorrect politics and still do business in the U.S.


Anthony Bourdain
Lwp Kommunikáció / Flickr

Anthony Bourdain — author, chef, TV travel host, libertine, and self-described left-wing liberal — defended the rights of people to say and believe "really stupid, offensive shit" in a recent interview with Adweek.

Interviewer Lisa Granatstein asked the host of CNN's Parts Unknown the not entirely accurate two-part question, "How about government getting involved in where and how we eat? Mayor Bill de Blasio called on New Yorkers to boycott Chick-fil-A given the owner's anti-LGBT views."

Factually, de Blasio didn't call for a boycott of Chick-Fil-A. What he said was "I'm certainly not going to patronize them and I wouldn't urge any other New Yorker to patronize them. But they do have a legal right."

However, other mayors did choose to get "involved in where and how we eat," such as the late former Mayor of Boston Thomas Menino, who reportedly told the Boston Herald in 2012 he would try to block the opening of any business (such as Chick-Fil-A) "that discriminates against a population," despite lacking the legal authority to do so.

Also in 2012, Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel backed a city alderman's stated intention to block the opening of a Chick-Fil-A franchise in his district. Emmanuel later tried to walk the statement back, when his press secretary said, "If they meet all the requirements, they're welcome to open a restaurant here."

It's been somewhat lost in the fog of recent history, but the controversy over Chick-Fil-A was not about whether or not the company practiced anti-discrimination against its employees or customers, it was simply a matter of the company's CEO Dan Cathy expressing his public political opposition to gay marriage, a position also publicly held by President Barack Obama (Emmanuel's former boss when he was White House Chief of Staff) until May 2012.

Bourdain seems to get the difference. Responding to Granatstein's question, he said:

Are we looking for nice people to run our companies? We're going to be looking pretty hard. I'm not going to go eat at that restaurant or I'm not going to patronize that business because I don't like what they institutionally support—I don't like the chairman of the board, I don't like who created the company, whatever. There's a whole lot of reasons to just make a personal decision and not go eat at a business and give them your money. I come from a restaurant business where you're lucky if the guy working next to you isn't like an armed robber. I support your inalienable right to say really stupid, offensive shit and believe really stupid, offensive shit that I don't agree with. I support that, and I might even eat your chicken sandwich.

In 2006, Reason contributor Baylen Linnekin conducted a fun interview with Bourdain based on the premise that the celebrity chef was a secret libertarian. Linnekin asked him questions pertaining to the nanny state ("Probably a sign of the apocalypse"), corporate social responsibility ("People should be teased and humiliated for eating at McDonald's…I don't think we should legislate them out of business"), drug legalization, regulation, immigration and more.

When Linnkein informed Bourdain that he scored a B+ in the former's assessment of the latter's libertarian bona fides, Bourdain replied, "I'm flattered. I guess I am. I'm very libertarian on many things." Bourdain added that he is "Embarrassed by the excesses of the left, because that's very much where I came from. And, for a million good reasons, horrified by the excesses of the right."

You can watch a very early Reason TV video featuring Bourdain talking about Chicago's foie gras ban here.