“So because I made a fat girl joke you won’t accept a $500,000 donation?” Planned Parenthood Rejects $500,000 Donation From Tucker Max

by Daniel Reynolds · April 4, 2012

    When you hear news like "Planned Parenthood Rejected Tucker Max," a number of possibilities come to mind -- most ending in tears. But no! Turns out the I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell author tried to donate $500,000 to the nation's largest sexual health care provider, but was spurned due to the "perception" of his writing.

    Surprised? Tucker Max's marketer, Ryan Holiday, certainly was, and he wrote an article on Forbes.com protesting the group's decision.

    [Tucker Max, via]

    You see, the plan was initially hatched by Holiday, after Max asked for advice on how to reduce his tax burden while simultaneously promoting his new book. Holiday responded:

    “What if you gave a bunch of money to Planned Parenthood and they named a clinic after you? They need donors, it’d be awesome and you’d get a ton of positive press out of it for a change.”

    Beggars can't be choosers, right? What they didn't account for, however, is that Planned Parenthood has massive PR problems of its own. And some women would rather serve beer in hell than see "The Tucker Max Clinic" looming over them the day after a regretted sexual encounter.

    Although Planned Parenthood was initially enthusiastic about Tucker Max's donation, they changed their tune once they, you know, found out who he was. Here's the lead paragraph on Max's website:

    I get excessively drunk at inappropriate times, disregard social norms, indulge every whim, ignore the consequences of my actions, mock idiots and posers, sleep with more women than is safe or reasonable, and just generally act like a raging dickhead.

    "Perception" of his writing, indeed.  While unrestrained drinking and sluttery may sell books, it might turn off an organization that seeks to educate people on making responsible sexual decisions.  Here's the full conversation between Max and Planned Parenthood:

    Planned Parenthood: “We have concerns about accepting this donation, we understand what you write is satire, but we’re worried about the perception.”

    Tucker: “I don’t write satire. I write about my life.”

    PP: “Yes, well, we’re concerned about the perception of your writing.”

    Tucker: “Perception? You mean you have a problem with me personally, or you’re worried what OTHER people think?”

    PP: “I guess it’s the way you write about women.”

    Tucker: “What do you mean? I’m not negative towards women in my writing. Women love my writing; more than half my fans are female.”

    PP: “Well…there are certain jokes you make we feel can be perceived in a certain negative manner.”

    Tucker: “So because I made a fat girl joke you won’t accept a $500,000 donation?”

    PP: “I wouldn’t characterize it that way.”

    Tucker: “How would you then? I’m listening and I want your best quote.”

    PP: “We don’t feel it would be appropriate, given Planned Parenthood’s mission and your body of work, to accept your donation.”

    Tucker: “What? I thought Planned Parenthood’s mission was about helping women, not passing judgment on humor.”

    Translation: Your money's no good here.

    "Why?" was the big question in Holiday's article -- why would an organization in need of funding reject his client's money? The question is fair. And with women's health at stake, it should certainly be addressed. The main issue is that, although this is a donation, this is also transaction.  Max wants to buy a better, shinier public image for $500,000.  Unfortunately for him, Planned Parenthood also has a public image to consider, and for them, the cost of comprising this image exceeded the donation amount.

    But alas, that's the price one pays for easy fame and fortune. As the timeless adage goes, "Money can't buy you class."  And Max may still have a little elegance to learn before embarking on his next philanthropic pursuit.

    UPDATE: Tucker Max responded to the Planned Parenthood debacle, and explicitly addressed the "Image" issue:

    This was not about my image: Some people have tried to say this about me “rehabbing my image” by using PP. That’s comical bullshit... So why did I want to donate this money (other than the fact that I believe in PP’s mission)?

    No one denies that you're pro-choice, Tucker Max, or that you care about this cause. But someone who does your publicity just wrote an article specifically stating that "rehabbing" your image was a key element in the decision. Said Holiday:

    This would have been a win-win-win-win situation. Cut a check, keep a clinic open. Rehabilitate some of Tucker’s PR. Reduce a tax burden. Encourage other donors. And most importantly: Help women keep access to vital reproductive services.

    Max claimed it wasn't any concern for public image that drove him to donate, but rather a novel way to promote his new book:

    What I really wanted from this–aside from that good feeling of doing something actually positive for men and women who need help–was a way to get a different type of press for my then-upcoming book

    Ah, ok.  Tucker Max doesn't care if you think he's a good person, he just cares if you buy his new book! Yet, earlier in his post, he stated:

    Lots of people have tried to call this a “stunt.” That’s funny, I didn’t know that a 500k check is a joke to them.

    A stunt isn't a joke, it's something unusual done to attract attention. One might also phrase that as "a way to get a different type of press."  And a large donation to a controversial group, especially when one has to give it away anyway to avoid taxes, is certainly one way to achieve that.

    A major criticism of Max has been his failure to donate the money anonymously, an act which would have proved his altruism (at least to himself) and cleared any suspicion of "stunts." His rebuttal:

    Now, I’ll be honest, I don’t think I would have done an anonymous donation for that much, but the fact is, THEY NEVER EVEN BROUGHT IT UP!

    It's not usually an organization's policy to suggest an anonymous donation, particularly when it's clear the motivation behind the initial proposed donation is book publicity. It's one of those things without reward, you know, that good people offer to do.