Black Rifle Coffee CEO Battles NYT Hit-Piece
19 Jul 2021
BUCK: We are gonna have someone joining us here in a moment to talk about what it means to be targeted by the left and then have some people on the right come after you as well because of a profile piece, in this case by the New York Times that involved a company that I’ve known and worked with for years as a sponsor in the past. The founders are friends, they’re patriots, they’re great guys. And so I want you to know that before we talk to them about this, because I know there are a lot of people right now that, based on this New York Times profile, are asking questions. And Clay’s gonna be weighing in too to make sure that we get answers to all of that.
But the piece was, “Can the Black Rifle Coffee Company Become the Starbucks of the Right? The company doubled its sales last year by leaning into America’s culture war. It’s also trying to distance itself from some of its new customers”
Now, there were some quotes in the piece that got a lot of people on the right over the weekend at least, judging by social media, upset. We wanted to offer the CEO of Black Rifle Coffee — he’s a veteran the United States Special Forces. Tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. We wanted to offer him this opportunity on this platform to just clarify exactly what his company’s mission statement is, what they do, what they really believe, joined by Evan Hafer, the CEO of Black Rifle now. Evan, good to have you on.
HAFER: Buck, thank you so much for having me on. I always love the show, love being on it. I can’t wait to dive in.
BUCK: Yeah, man, tell us just what happened here? Why are you guys getting pushback? ‘Cause you know the left comes after you because you very openly stand for patriotism, the flag, the Second Amendment, the First Amendment, right? There’s a lot that the left hates about what the brand represents, but people on the right are upset, too, some of them are. Why?
HAFER: Right. You know, I think it’s to be expected from a portion of the country on the left, which is everything, just our way of life, what we stand for, you know, we want to build a great company, we roast coffee, but what we stand for is the American service members, law enforcement, military, the people that go out put their lives on the line every day for this country. We want to serve them a great cup of coffee and continue to reward those people that protect and serve our communities every day whether it’s in the United States or overseas.
And I built my entire company on roasting great coffee, started roasting coffee one pound at a time over 15 years to take with me to Iraq. We started this company in 2014, or I did, quite literally just to start roasting coffee and giving back to veteran community. And my way of life is directly derogatory towards a portion of the left, which they don’t like freedom, they don’t like fun, they don’t like firearms, they don’t like God, they don’t like the First or the Second Amendment. They don’t like just what we do every day. So I fully intend and expect to get flak from the left just by being me.
I think with the Times article the proposal to us — and wasn’t proposal — they called us back in March, and I was actually fishing, bass fishing with Mat Best in Florida before a NASCAR race, and we debated whether or not we would participate even with the Times. And we ultimately came to the conclusion which is we can give somebody an opportunity to give an objective look at the company. Whether they use that opportunity to really talk about veterans-related issues and things like that that we presented, that’s up to them. But we fully figured that there would be some type of spin on this, that would be trying to be derogatory or reflect negatively on the company.
CLAY: Evan, appreciate you coming on. Clay here. So I know the feeling when you have a hit-piece coming. I’m sure, Buck, does too.
CLAY: But whether it’s Politico, whether it’s The Daily Beast, whether it’s the Washington Post, I mean, you know when you talk to someone that isn’t necessarily aligned with your values that, even if they talk a good game, you are potentially not going to be represented in a way that reflects everything that you talked about. So, first question for you, when did you read the article for the first time, and what was your reaction when you read it? How representative did it feel to you of your interaction with the New York Times?
HAFER: Well, I think you kind of have to go back before I read it, because I think my first feeling on this was when they do their fact-checking, right, and they send over their lists of things like questions, whether or not they got information right. And there was a lot of information that they just weren’t really getting right. So, that gave me a perspective as to exactly where the reporting was.
I had no idea as to what type of position they were going to take. But they had a laundry list of questions. A lot of people were just incorrect or factually incorrect. Some of them were taken out of context. So I knew all of these things were going to happen. I just wanted to make sure the facts are correct. So, when did we start the company? Who started the company? When did we start roasting coffee? All of those things were correct, meaning my years in service, where did I serve overseas — get the facts right. So, we tried to get them to at least get the facts right.
When I first read it, I had to read it kind of a couple times because at times I was more emotional than I should be because, obviously, this is contextual to my life. And the first thing was there are just blatant things that were taken out of context or wove in to create a narrative as if I were somehow saying misrepresentative statements or slanderous statements toward conservatives. That was like blatant obvious.
BUCK: Evan, just so we’re clear here, they quoted you guys as saying in this article, “It’s just a repugnant group of people. It’s like the worst of American society. Some of the people that hijacked portions of the brand.” And so that’s a quote that’s all over social media. That’s what has some of your people, my people, right, people on the right who share our values, upset. They saw that headline. They’re upset. Address for us now both what was left out there from the New York Times, but also how do you really feel about the people who are upset about this? Because they feel like they’ve been slapped in the face. What do you say to them?
HAFER: Well, I think first — I’m a conservative. And there’s absolutely no way that I in any context was saying any negative things towards conservatives because I’m not self-loathing. I love being conservative in this country. I love the country.
I think this is where this has to be corrected — the journalists and I were discussing racism and anti-Semitism. And what was happening to the company last year was there was an attack, an electronic attack that was organized by anti-Semitics, and they were charging the company based on my last name. And they were making death threats, they were posting memes. We’ve seen this dark underbelly of the internet. Whether they were left or right, I was not differentiating.
I was saying these people that are blatantly racist and anti-Semitic, they are the worst of our society. And they showed it on the internet and they showed us who they were in the attack. Now, the way that was woven together was directly misrepresentative to the statements, and the context of the conversation was only around anti-Semitism and racism. And there was zero connection between conservatives and those two elements of our society. I think it’s a very important distinction that conservatives have to make all the time, and so do the left. Whether you’re left or right, you can’t really put those groups in that bucket.
BUCK: So, Evan, it sounds like what you’re telling us is that, you know, if someone asks me, they said, “What do you think of, you know, the Tiki torch mob in Charlottesville?” I’d say those guys are idiots they don’t represent anything that I share and then if I said that, New York Times says, “Well, conservative host says that a bunch of other conservatives are, you know, idiots who don’t represent his values.” It sounds to me like that’s what you’re saying happened here. Is that a fair version of events?
HAFER: That is a hundred percent accurate. The only time that I discussed this was — like this is repugnant, those elements of our society, anti-Semites and racists. And they have no place in conservative politics or the conservative portion of America. And I stand by that today. So there’s a complete disconnection between what we’re referring to in our customer base and those elements of our society. And that’s where there was a direct misrepresentation of what I was speaking of.
CLAY: Evan, one of the things that I think is certainly getting misrepresented in mainstream media is something that any of us are somewhat familiar with. One of the challenges that you have as well is your brand at Black Rifle has become so powerful and so reflective and so attractive to people that you get judged when someone does something inappropriate in your gear in a way that doesn’t happen with Nike, right, or other big brands. That seems to me transparently unfair.
Let me give you an example. When we had all the protests going on for the whole summer and somebody gets arrested, and they are wearing a Nike T-shirt, people aren’t like. “Oh, my God. Look at Nike. They support looting and rioting and all those different things.” Yet when someone in a Black Rifle shirt gets arrested, it immediately gets lumped in with you. Is that just a form of unfair media? How would you assess the fact that somebody might be wearing your gear when you guys are selling millions and millions of dollars’ worth of gear. Basically you have the entire scope in some direction, I would imagine, of American life with people wearing your gear?
HAFER: Yeah. And I think, well, one, it’s an unrealistic expectation that, after a consumer purchases a hat or a shirt, you have knowledge as to what they’re going to do wearing that hat or shirt. It’s a completely unrealistic expectation.
Two, I absolutely know that there is a double standard, specifically with I think mainstream media to villainize small American companies that really believe in this country and uphold American values and specifically have identified themselves as conservative. They take that as an opportunity to highlight specific companies. And they’ve done it to multiple companies that I know of.
Kryptek, our company, Grunt Style. We weren’t just the only ones. So, this is a very specific and targeted attack to I think inflame certain portions of the country and then make small business, because we are relatively small business, look bad. There’s no way that I can think of it any other way. I’m not a conspiracy theorist in any regard, but I do think that they use this as an opportunity to paint or villainize.
BUCK: We’ve only got time for one more quick thing, but I just want to let everyone know, if you were to estimate how many — and just for full disclosure, my show stretching back now for five years when I was doing my own syndicated show, Black Rifle was a sponsor at various times — how many conservative media entities, content creators, podcasts has Black Rifle been involved with?
HAFER: Hundreds, over the course of seven years. I would say the bigger ones for seven-plus years now. But we consider ourselves a partner in really, you know, shoulder-to-shoulder, I think, in the information that’s being put out. So, we love supporting you guys.
BUCK: Hundreds of conservatives. Thank you. I think that’s why there’s a whole strategy here, Evan, to try to divide and conquer the right and especially go after those brands and those shows that support content creators out there on the right. But Evan Hafer, CEO of Black Rifle Coffee, Evan, first of all, thank you for your service and tell Mat and all the guys — Mat Best — I send my best, but I had Black Rifle Coffee this morning in my cup and I’ll have it again tomorrow. So, we’ll be talking to you guys soon.
HAFER: Thank you. Thank you, guys, I really appreciate it.
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