Verizon has decided to quit the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC) following a public outcry over the corporate lobby group's hosting of David Horowitz as a prominent speaker at its annual meeting in New Orleans in August.
The Center for Media and Democracy (CMD)'s exposé of Horowitz's divisive and bigoted remarks at the ALEC event sparked a coalition of 78 democracy reform, civil rights, and advocacy organizations to send a letter of protest to ALEC's largest corporate backers, including Verizon, urging them to "make it clear that [they] will not stand for the sort of toxic, inflammatory claims ALEC has embraced" and leave ALEC.
"Our company has no tolerance for racist, white supremacist or sexist comment or ideals," Verizon spokesperson Richard Young said in a statement to The Intercept, which first broke the story.
ALEC may have tried to prevent Verizon from dropping its membership with a statement posted to its website on September 10 stating that Horowitz "was advised of the program parameters and did not abide the process," and that "ALEC staff removed the video archive of the livestream and ceased promotion of the speech as the comments were inconsistent with the manner in which speeches are offered at ALEC."
Verizon, a member and major donor of ALEC for over three decades, must have been unimpressed with the statement. The telecommunications giant was a long-time holder of a seat on ALEC's Private Enterprise Board. Its exit is the second big loss for ALEC in 2018 after ExxonMobil's decision to not renew its membership earlier in the year.
State Rep. Chris Taylor, who attended the event and wrote the original article exposing Horowitz's rhetoric at ALEC, quoted him as saying that, "at the K-12 level, school curricula have been turned over to racist organizations like Black Lives Matter and terrorist organizations like the Muslim Brotherhood."
Horowitz's legal team attempted to intimidate CMD into retracting the story with the threat of a defamation lawsuit for describing him as a "hatemonger" and "anti-Islamic."
Madison attorney Lester Pines sent a response on behalf of Rep. Taylor and CMD standing by the accuracy of Rep. Taylor's column. "Were your client to bring a suit for defamation against Representative Taylor or CMD, it would be dismissed as frivolous and they would seek attorneys' fees and expenses," Pines wrote.
It remains unclear whether other brand-sensitive corporate backers of ALEC serving diverse markets will follow Verizon's lead. More than 110 corporations and 19 nonprofits have severed their ties with ALEC in recent years over the front group's backing of controversial "Stand Your Ground" and voter ID laws, and its radical climate denial stance.