“CEO Quits Under Fire For Stance On Gay Marriage,” the page-one headline declares in The Wall Street Journal this morning. Just days after being named CEO of Mozilla, the Firefox browser company, Brendan Eich steps down after coming under fire for a mere $1,000 donation he made in support of a California ballot effort to ban gay marriage.
One thousand dollars. Six years ago.
Albeit, since when does a stance someone takes on an issue make him guilty of causing “pain” for those on the other side? If you truly feel any pain from someone you never heard of, who made a small donation to a cause you oppose, you’re a wimp, or you are in need of something truly painful to give you perspective.
Investors lose when moral highhandedness interferes with smart business decisions. Why hold a CEO to standards we don’t meet ourselves? I don’t much care whether a CEO carouses in strip-clubs or fancies kinky boots in private; I just want him (or her) to do a great job running the company.
The board of Hewlett-Packard should still regret ousting star CEO Mark Hurd in August 2010 after reports he had been wooing a female subcontractor. The ostensible reason was for fibbing on his expense reports. Small beer. HPQ is down 15% since then; the S&P 500 index is up 68% in the same period.
There was no real reason to force the resignation of BP’s secretly gay CEO, Sir John Browne, in 2007. If his sex scandal had involved a female chipee, rather than the male escort he met on the website “Suited and Booted,” we might never have heard about it. Where were the Outrage Brigade and the crusaders for gay marriage in that case?
But now it’s not even your behavior that will get you in trouble—it’s your supposedly First Amendment-protected right to free speech. Soon after Eich was named the new CEO last week, Mozilla employees, offended by his stance against gay marriage, posted a record of his $1,000 donation in the ballot fight. They went on Twitter (the ultimate megaphone for the disaffected and the pious) to demand his resignation.
Never mind that he made the contribution way back in 2008 and that much of America has swung into the “yes” column in the past six years. Should we damn everyone who formerly had opposed gay marriage and curse them as gay-bashers? President Obama went on the record as opposing gay marriage in 2004 and reiterated it in 2006, changing his stance, miraculously, late in the 2012 campaign. If Brendan Eich isn’t fit to run Mozilla, how is President Obama fit to be CEO in the White House?
And never mind, too, the possibility that Eich might have softened his stance and evolved just as a majority of America has; a crusading convert can be an effective force in enlisting his former allies.
Instead, liberal intolerance and the Outrage Brigade prefer to go on a search-and-destroy mission, eviscerating anyone who dares oppose the Politically Correct dogma of our times. Especially odious is the statement put out by Mozilla’s chairwoman, Mitchell Baker, apologizing for the appointment of Eich as CEO. In classic Orwellian-speak, she praises the “openness” of staff and the community in sharing their beliefs, missing the point that these same people are punishing Eich for sharing his.
“We have employees with a wide diversity of views. Our culture of openness extends to encouraging staff and community to share their beliefs and opinions in public… But this time we failed to listen, to engage, and to be guided by our community.”
The Journal points out other drawbacks of the new CEO. Firefox, second only to Microsoft’s Internet Explorer, has no presence in the smartphone market that is the future, and Eich has no mobile experience. Disqualifying him on that score would be just fine. But if a CEO’s qualifications now must include never having opposed the Politically Correct agenda of the Outrage Brigade, investors will be the worse off for it. We aren’t looking for a moral leader to run a business; we want the person who does the best job of building that business and creating wealth for its owners.
That was the point of business & capitalism. Remember when?