An Update on the Ludacris/Anheuser-Busch Situation

This is a partial transcript from "The O'Reilly Factor," March 25, 2004 that has been edited for clarity.

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BILL O'REILLY, HOST: In the "Factor Follow-up" segment tonight, Anheuser-Busch (search) says it has ended its association with gangster rapper, Ludacris (search), but it is not sorry it rewarded this sorry person with its corporate dollars.

Now there's been big fallout over this story. Scores of Anheuser distributors complained directly to the company. And at least one restaurateur has dropped Anheuser-Busch completely.

Joining us now from Tampa is Abe Gustin, who owns 19 restaurants and 26 convenience stores throughout the USA.

So you're done with Anheuser-Busch. Why, Mr. Gustin?

ABE GUSTIN, RESTAURANT OWNER: Well, I've had a marvelous association with Anheuser-Busch for about 16 years. And about three or four weeks ago, I don't recall what the exact date was, I was watching your show, Bill, and saw the segment on Anheuser-Busch's sponsorship.

And I talked to a few friends about it, actually talked to a good priest about it that was a friend of mine. And said, you know, why doesn't the Catholic church get involved in stopping all this? He said well, what are you going to do? And I said well it's my intention to pull the products out of my restaurants. We have 19 restaurants. Three we're in partnerships with. And my son and I - my two sons and I own the other 16 restaurants, which 12 happen to be Applebee's.

So I decided after listening to this priest, that was a friend of mine, and he actual got on the pulpit and said, you know, someone has to take a stand against what corporate America is doing. And he said I've got a very good friend that is taking that stand. And he's removing their products from his restaurants tomorrow.

Well, it so happened there was a gentleman in his audience that was with the news media. And he called me and he said I don't believe you're doing this. And I said well, this is one man's approach that -- at trying to speak up for the little man in America, that's finally gotten tired of this. And I just felt somebody had to stand up and take a stance and say we're tired of corporate America sponsoring immorality...

O'REILLY: Yes, I mean we...

GUSTIN: ...we're tired of Hollywood...

O'REILLY: We admire you. And we must tell the audience that tens of millions of people have taken Mr. Gustin's stance individually and not used Anheuser-Busch products. And Anheuser-Busch knows it. But you are, you know, a man of esteem and a man of success and have this. Now when Anheuser-Busch -- when you told them you were dropping them, what happened?

GUSTIN: Well, I had a number of calls from them. They basically asked me to reconsider my position. They actually called me prior to running their last concert. And I said, you know, I would be more than happy to back off my stance if they would back off their last concert. And they basically indicated they couldn't do that. And so I said well, if you're going to leave the children with the impression that it's OK to sponsor these types of shows, then I'm going to have to let the few people know that visit my restaurants and my convenience stores that I don't condone it. And the only way I can let the corporate America know that I don't condone their actions is to remove their products from my stores. And I will do that whether it's Anheuser-Busch or it's Nike or it's Coors or anybody else.

O'REILLY: Yes. Now what did Anheuser say to that when you confronted them with the moral argument?

GUSTIN: Well, they offered me a few alternatives, which I didn't think were acceptable. And since they weren't acceptable -- and I gave them...

O'REILLY: I heard they tried to bribe you. Is that true?

GUSTIN: Well, I don't know if you would call it a bribe. They did offer to give a substantial sum of money to my favorite charity in my name.

O'REILLY: Oh, that might be a nice bribe. All right, but look...


O'REILLY: ...what we can't understand here, and maybe you don't know and I don't know why you would, was why this company dug its heels in when they know they're wrong. They know people like you are right. They know this Ludacris is hurting children. They know they're rewarding his bad behavior.

I mean, General Hugh Shelton, four-star general, is on the board of Anheuser-Busch. All right? That's not General Shelton. That's Ludacris. There is General Shelton.

He's on the board. We've called this man about a half dozen times to say, hey, general, are you OK with this? What's your -- he won't even call us back. So I think what it is here is that money, money has just overridden -- particularly for the general, who gets paid six figures for doing nothing -- has overridden common sense in this country. And I'm just really happy to see you taking the action that you've taken.

GUSTIN: Well, thank you, Bill. You know, I have to say, I've been -- Anheuser-Busch and I were partners for oh, a good 16 years when I was CEO of a major corporation. And I had a marvelous association with them. And this has just come up in the last year. And I don't know if it's a new marketing strategy, but it seems like not only Anheuser-Busch, but a lot of the major corporations are moving into the...


GUSTIN: ...areas that I consider borderline filth. And certainly it's not good for the children of America. I've got six grandkids. I would die if my six grandkids saw some of this stuff that's...

O'REILLY: Yes, no, we're with you all the way Mr. Gustin.

And that's why we're having you on. We want people to know. There are good people like you who are making a stand against corporate America, its irresponsibility in this these areas. And we don't want to hurt Anheuser-Busch.

We have - we gave them plenty of time to come on here and tell us why they're doing it, but they ran. Thanks, Mr. Gustin, very much. We appreciate it. It was great to talk with you.

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