Ford Motor Co.'s bungling of the snit over its advertising in gay and lesbian publications offers more proof that just as governments shouldn't negotiate with terrorists, businesses must not knuckle under to special-interest groups.
The automaker made several mistakes going back to the spring, when the American Family Association called off a threatened boycott so dealer intermediaries could discuss with Ford executives the group's concern that the automaker vigorously promotes a "homosexual agenda." The association agreed to revisit the matter in December.
Ford should have said no and ended the discussion.
Mistake No. 2 was trying to make the group believe Ford was playing ball after it canceled Jaguar and Land Rover ads in gay and lesbian publications for legitimate business reasons.
Mistake No. 3 was trying to placate gay and lesbian groups by clumsily placing corporate ads in publications aimed at their communities.
Every business has a right to advertise where it chooses, but by not sticking to its guns and being forthright about its principles, Ford allowed its media plan to be hijacked by two special interests. Neither is happy with Ford.
The American Family Association again is making noises about a possible boycott.
Mistake No. 4 would be even to discuss it.
No executive wants to be boycotted, but most boycott threats are empty attempts to gin up publicity and contributions. This particular group has organized boycotts. But whatever pain a boycott might bring could be multiplied if other special-interest groups see Ford as a soft touch.
It's never too late to just say no.