Hyatt Under Fire for Hosting “Anti-Muslim Hate Group” But Are Boycotts Warranted?

At the end of the week Think Progress put out a piece critical of Hyatt for hosting the ACT for America conference at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City.

I’m unfamiliar with the group, but they (along with half of America) are described by the Southern Poverty Law Center “as an anti-Muslim extremist and hate group.” A cursory reading suggests:

  • Their Executive Director used to work for the Christian Coalition.

  • They appear generally pro-Trump, count several allies in Congress and the national security establishment (Michael Flynn was a board member), and lobby against the use of foreign (code for Sharia) law in U.S. courts a position which seems to me unwise because foreign contract issues are often litigated in American courts by U.S. persons and foreign law provides the necessary context for how to resolve those claims, as long as so doing does not offend US public policy.

  • They have also opposed the practice of female genital mutilation, which concerns many liberal human rights groups as well, although perhaps their motivations are more strategic than expressions of genuine concern.

The Think Progress piece reports on a petition with 100,000 signatures delivered to Hyatt demanding they back out of providing a venue to the event this coming week. The piece is exasperated that Hyatt “even offered conference attendees discounted rates” which is how conference contracts work, of course. Events guarantee a minimum number of sleeping rooms and the hotel sets aside those rooms at a set price.

Zohab J., a Hyatt loyalist disappointed in Hyatt for this decision, wondered if I might write something about a Hyatt hosting this conference — especially because I’m not sure the right way to handle it. I think this is actually hard.

Last year Marriott’s CEO made a stand for not picking and choosing conference groups based on the views held by those groups

The fact they are having a meeting with us and using our hotel does not mean we support their point of view. If I could wave a magic wand, I’d love to have it so that those types of groups never exist.

…Do we really want, as a society, for companies like Marriott and the peers in our industry and others to sit and make judgments or points of view on people sitting in our meeting rooms? I shudder to think that we really expect that my role or Marriott’s role is to say your views are not acceptable in our hotels and that another person’s views are..

We are serving people from all around the world, from all walks of life, with all points of views, equally and with a genuine welcome, with people who are equally diverse. Our arms need to be open.

By the way I am a long-time supporter of same sex marriage but always found it odd for people to call on businesses not to do business with people they disagree with while not supporting bakeries making the choice of which couples to make wedding cakes for.

I have to imagine the individual hotel signed a contract that the chain wasn’t involved in and now they can’t really just abrogate it. In fact I bet Hyatt corporate wishes the Hyatt Regency Crystal City hadn’t signed this event contract and put them in this position! But what do they do days before the event, when the group represents ideas shared by many, doesn’t bring with it the threat of violence, and there’s no reports of involvement in illegal activity?

If it is me as the hotel’s sales manager maybe I don’t host it, right? It strikes me as very much the right of the hotel to decline (or at least it should be), just as it’s the right of customers to choose not to do business with a hotel based on their decision, whether that’s wise or not.

The hotel’s ownership may not like me turning away the business and might even fire me but do I really want a part of this? Probably not.


Ballroom of the Hyatt Regency Orlando Airport, credit: Hyatt

Still I am not sure what the rule is here that works for a hotel chain and I am a bit loathe to say I know the right policy. Earlier this summer Hyatt found itself on the opposite end of similar criticism, targeted when the Hyatt Regency Orlando Airport hosted an event held by the Muslim Congress.

Freedom of speech only means something if it protects the speech you hate. There’s no need to protect popular speech.

Hyatt isn’t government, this isn’t a first amendment issue and I think they should have the right to choose whom they work with and host for conferences. At the same time I think the first amendment model is useful in terms of whether to criticize someone for offering a platform or speaking venue.

Even Nazis should be able to hold meetings. And we should criticize them whenever and wherever they express their views. Simply shutting down their expression can easily backfire in terms of sympathy and making groups more cohesive since they feel under attack.

People increasingly want to shout down their opponents and deny them a voice, rather than countering that voice. That seems unwise to me. Just last week the Chairman of the California Democratic Party called for a boycott of In ‘n Out Burger because the chain donates to the state Republican Party (as well as to Democrats).

And yet I understand people who feel less connected with a business that does business with people they disagree with and find offensive.

Does the groups a hotel chain hosts for conferences affect what you think of the chain? Should businesses that portray their values as inclusive have political or ideological tests for group sales contracts? Should customers “vote with their wallet” and choose to spend only with businesses whose associations they agree with?

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community InsideFlyer.com, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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Comments

  1. @GUWonder. You go on a hate fulled angry rant about a wide swath of of people, then you call Trump a hate monger. Look in the mirror. In the future, for the sake of honesty, when someone asks you if you are a crazy person, just say “Yes I am. And I am proud of it too.” Then for good effect, roll you eyes, give a knowing smile and yell “Ni” at the top of your lunge.

    “Ni” has a long and august history. Originally used by the famous Knights that go “Ni” in Monte Python. Subsequently, it was spoken with reverence by college students in the 1980s. Ni turned into a cult. Was disseminated by the internet. Now it is a widely accepted call of Loony Leftists. So GUWonder, I recommend walk down the streets yell “NI” and soon you will be surround by many more like minded people “with minds that hate” (to quote the Beatles). Ta Ta and a good NI to you too.

  2. Other Just Saying,

    I consider being critical of racists, religious bigots, xenophobes and violent extremists of various sorts to be a badge of honor and a pursuit of my rational interests by rational, lawful means. 😉

    Xenophobia and racist/religious bigotry is the lodestar of the loony snowflakes who support acts like the blog-mentioned group hosted by Hyatt and who support Trump and Carson’s xenophobic bigotry.

    Are you always such a right-wing snowflake? Seems so. 😉

  3. Jimboclown,

    Looking into your mirror, your face reflects hate and love, including love for racist and religious bigotry. 😉

    Mine reflects a distaste for racist and religious bigotry. 😉

  4. @guwonderclown Your comments (and you) are all about hate, bigotry, racism. You add nothing positive to the world.

  5. Jimboclown,

    My comments are about the hate, bigotry and racism espoused by the blog-mentioned group hosted by Hyatt and the apologists for the kind of hatred it and you espouse. Hate me for what you wish, it doesn’t bother me. 😉

    My being hated by racist and religious bigots is just fine by me, a badge of pride at that, as I would rather not be beloved by insecure, xenophobic losers riding the fear-mongering bandwagon or by those taking others for such a ride (as Trump, Carson and ACTA do).

  6. LOL Jim. No use arguing with a Loon like GUWonder. Loons live in a delusional world of their own making. All we can do is hope that they find the light.

  7. The defense of racist and religious bigotry and of those peddling such bigotry is a tell-tale sign of the emotional insecurities and loony paranoia of the crowd selling and/or buying such bigotry.

    The blogger’s use of scare quotes to try to undermine the legitimacy of the SPLC and/or the SPLC’s designation of the ACTA group as an anti-Muslim hate group won’t change the facts. Amongst those facts: ACTA is an anti-Muslim hate group.

    And even as it’s become neo-PC to bash on Muslims/Islam, ACTA and create more space for suc, ACTA is still an anti-Muslim hate group.

    Thank you SPLC for shining a light on this ACTA group and the fanboys of such bigotry on this blog and elsewhere.

  8. “.And even as it’s become neo-PC to bash on Muslims/Islam and to create more space for such bigotry, ACTA is still an anti-Muslim hate group.”

  9. @GUWonder I express no optinion on ACTA because I’m not familiar with it beyond Google searches. SPLC on the other hand was an important group that more recently seems to identify both groups with troubling discourse and those they simply disagree with and lump them together.

  10. With all due respect, many of us weren’t born yesterday.

    The idea of having no opinion about this ACTA group because of only having Googled it while knowing more about SPLC even prior to Google/googling SPLC is a cop-out. It’s not much different than saying there are good people on both/all sides of a neo-Nazi protest if the protest against the march is conducted by the ADL and the neo-Nazis are from the NRM, the latter being an extremist right-wing group about which you know less unless and until Googling NRM.

  11. @GUWonder cop out? hardly. I am not going to make the claim about someone being a ‘hate group’ without having a pretty good [more than casual] understanding.

    It doesn’t take much to see the SPLC calls organizations ‘hate groups’ that are within the mainstream of American discourse.

  12. It obviously doesn’t take much to cop out.

    As the Jews and Roma experienced in Europe within living memory — maybe you too know of relatives who had tattoos numbered on them from European concentration camps back in the days of Hitler — and as various minorities have experienced in the US — maybe you know of groups like the KKK with or without Google (cue comment about Sen. Byrd? ;)) — hate groups can be within the “mainstream of discourse” for a while at least. That doesn’t mean the groups aren’t hate groups.

    It seems to me that this time you’ve spent more time trying to criticize the SPLC than to criticize an anti-Muslim hate group. What’s the agenda, to drive up blog audience numbers and engagement? At least those 1980s network talk show hosts putting on clown KKK and neo-Nazi types on after-school talkshow TV were doing so for reasons of ratings/money and portrayed the hate groups in a critical light. The same can’t be said of this blog this time. Is this approach on VFTW all about the money, or is it also an expression of a personal espousal of the neo-PC bias against Muslims/Islam that is within the “mainstream of American discourse”? Which pet organizations are you trying to defend from being identified as a hate group by the SPLC? “Inquiring minds want to know.”

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