When inciting people is your job, and how you shock starts to wear off, what’s your best play for relevancy?
If you’re Rush Limbaugh, you might call a birth-control advocate a “slut.” If you’re Tucker Max, the author and self-described “frat boy David Sedaris,” you try to get a Planned Parenthood clinic named for you, then you skewer the organization in the press when it refuses. Or maybe you stoop a step and have your PR guy do it.
Max recounted for The Daily Beast a conversation he had with Ryan Holiday—the PR guy who posted a rant on Forbes.com about the Planned Parenthood snafu—in which Max self-deprecatingly described his “rich white person problem”: needing to offset his considerable tax burden and wanting to do so while shilling for his new book.
“I’m like, ‘Dude, is there some way for me to do this?” Max said. “In my second book, I make a joke that I’ve paid for so many abortions, why don’t they name a clinic after [me]? Ryan was like, ‘Why don’t you do that?’”
And in an age in which self-promotion and existence are practically the same thing, that’s just what Team Tucker Max tried to do. Holiday said they approached a number of Planned Parenthood affiliates in Texas, where Max resides, to ask whether the author could donate $500,000 and have his name put on a clinic. An assistant to Max did not reveal the identity of his employer at first, a Planned Parenthood spokesperson confirmed. The North Texas affiliate eventually said no, after scheduling a meeting with Max to discuss the donation further and then canceling it.
“Since Planned Parenthood wasted so much of our time, and frankly treated Tucker poorly, he ended up making donations to several other charities instead,” Holiday said in an email.
Max is best known for the New York Times bestsellers I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell and Assholes Finish First, in which he recounts escapades in which women are called “sluts” and “whores” and are often the butt of jokes. To protest accusations of lady hating, Max points to his millions of fans, women included, he says. But detractors have criticized both his public persona and his books.
It might come as a surprise that Max says he was aware of Planned Parenthood’s struggles and that he wanted to help. Getting press for giving to a charity he cares about would be the “best of all possible worlds,” he said.
“Helping reproductive services doesn’t just help women in isolation,” he said. “It helps men just as much.” Max, who said he has always been pro-choice, said he can’t remember how many abortions he has paid for, but he estimates that the number is between three and five.
“If I was Rick Santorum trying to donate to them, or someone who doesn’t believe in what they do, I’d understand that. That’s a legitimate reason to turn down money.”
“Like many nonprofits, Planned Parenthood reserves the right to decline offers of gifts and grants that may be discriminatory, are for purposes outside of our mission, or are too difficult to administer,” the organization said in a statement.
Many groups are choosy about where their money comes from, even if they’re needy. The Little League in Lennox, Calif., recently refused a $1,200 donation from a neighborhood strip club known for funding community events, citing a desire to keep its clean image.
Of Texas’s 69 Planned Parenthood clinics, about half a dozen appear to be named for people; others are named for their cities or parts of town.
Max said he could imagine only one reason Planned Parenthood might understandably not accept funds.
“If I was Rick Santorum trying to donate to them, or someone who doesn’t believe in what they do, I’d understand that. That’s a legitimate reason to turn down money,” he said.
In his case, he said he is convinced the organization rejected his efforts because it didn’t like his jokes, though he said Chelsea Handler and Sarah Silverman are far more offensive.
Max said he would have given the gift only if the named center was attached, and not otherwise.
“I’m not Bill Gates,” he said. “I’m not chucking half a million dollars around. If I’m going to spend even on something I believe in, I have to get something back.”