BarProducts CEO Mark Hastings slams boycott of his firm over Capitol riot selfie, says 'free speech under attack'
The 61-year-old Florida-based business executive captioned the picture 'Stop the steal!' like several other Donald Trump supporters who felt the 2020 presidential election was compromised
BarProducts.com founder and CEO Mark Hastings is facing the consequences for posting a picture with the supporters of former president Donald Trump who stormed the Capitol on January 6 moments before the riot broke out. The 61-year-old Florida-based business executive captioned the picture “Stop the steal!” like several other Trump supporters who felt the 2020 presidential election was compromised and the former president was defeated unfairly. Many customers of the company decided to boycott the company ever since.
The backlash over the selfie also sparked controversy as some called the boycott a cancel-culture-like move since Hastings did not enter the Capitol building on January 6 and was only using his right to free speech. A number of people were facing consequences for having joined the protest movement. Bradley Rukstales, the CEO of Cognesia, a data analytics firm based in Illinois, was sacked from his role just days after he was arrested during the riot. Other businesses and executives that associated themselves with the claim that the presidential election was marked by voter fraud, such as MyPillow with CEO Mike Lindell, have also suffered, with Bed Bath & Beyond deciding to stop selling MyPillow products. Twitter even permanently suspended the MyPillow USA account a week after freezing that of Lindell.
Likewise, employees of various other companies were also terminated after they backed the protest.
'Conservative free speech under attack'
In his reaction to the boycott his firm is facing, Hastings removed the controversial selfie and asked the Wall Street Journal which reported about the incident to wait till the time when “conservative free speech is not under attack”. Even BarProducts.com, which has around 60 employees and offers more than 10,000 products, said in a now-deleted post that Hastings was only expressing his personal views and not those of the company. Yet, it did not convince many as it was counter claimed that the CEO is a company’s brand ambassador and is not too separable from its identity.
Hastings tried to stop the coverage of the boycott his company is facing by asking the WSJ: “I urge you to reconsider your timing and run the article (that I’d be obliged to help with), at a time when conservative free speech is not under attack.”
The report was still published on Saturday, January 30, and it started with the following lines: “Bartenders have long ordered cocktail shakers, strainers and stainless-steel jiggers from BarProducts.com. Some stopped after Jan. 6, when the company’s chief executive posted a photo of himself in front of the U.S. Capitol while rioters stormed Congress.”
It also cited Brad Kaplan, one of the company’s customers and a bartender at Denver International Airport, saying on Facebook: “After 16 years of buying my bar tools from his company I, for one, will never spend another cent with them.”
Similarly, Jabriel Donohue, the bar manager at the Mountaineering Club inside the Graduate Hotel in Seattle, wrote on Facebook: “This is a person I’ve given money to and in some way, I feel a little responsible for funding him to be there.”
BarProducts.com is an online retailer that offers several bar supplies, including shot glasses, bottle openers, mini-refrigerators, etc.
'A Man that practices his freedom of speech is getting bashed'
BarProducts.com defended itself with an Instagram post saying: “A man that practices his freedom of speech on his PERSONAL Facebook page is getting bashed all over social media and as a result, our company is also getting bashed.” The post was removed later.
Hastings also claimed in social media posts that have now been deleted that he didn’t commit any crime on January 6 and didn’t enter the Capitol building. There are also no photographs to prove that he was inside the seat of the Congress. Five people, including an air force veteran and a policeman, died in the clashes on the day that saw the lawmakers present inside the Congress running for life.
This is not the first time that Hastings has come up with controversial social media posts. On Christmas Eve 2018, he posted a tweet that read: “Job Applicants Please Note: We do not hire LIBERALS.” He also tagged Trump saying: “Dear Mr. President, @realDonaldTrump Would you agree this should not be illegal?” The post was removed later.
Hastings, who tweets @BarProductsMark, is not known to be too active on Twitter, with little over 20 tweets and 31 followers.