Should You Boycott Rockstar?

by Joe Siegel

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Thursday June 11, 2009

A few months ago, Charles C.C. Tsai learned that homophobic right-wing radio talk-show host Michael Savage was affiliated Rockstar Energy Drink, which is popular in gay clubs and bars. Rockstar Energy Drink was apparently founded and is currently operated by a man named Russell Weiner.

Weiner is the son of Michael Savage, whose real last name is Weiner. Savage's wife, Janet Weiner, is the CFO of both Rockstar Energy Drinks and Savage Productions; as well as Secretary & Treasurer of the Conservative Paul Revere Society.

In the past, Savage has provoked the ire of gays and Muslims, for comments like these: "You want me to tell you what makes me sick? When I see two puffy white males kissing each other, I want to puke. When I see two women kissing each other, on the lips, as lovers, I want to vomit"; and "children's minds are being raped by the homosexual mafia, that's my position. They're raping our children's minds." During his short-lived show on MSNBC, Savage told a gay caller that he hoped the man would "get AIDS and die."

Savage has gotten heat from Muslim groups as well, for comments like saying Muslims "need deportation", and that adherents of Islam would do well to "take your religion and shove it up your behind" because "I'm sick of you."

Tsai was the creator of the "Boycott Rockstar" group on Facebook. Membership of the group soon swelled to 12,000. Savage denied any involvement with Rockstar Energy Drink. However, according to the Website, a document exists showing Savage's production company shares joint ownership of a building with Rockstar, Inc.

The Weiner family did not take too kindly to a boycott of their company. On May 27, Tsai's account was shut down without explanation. Tsai was also threatened with a libel suit by Glaser, Weil, Fink, Jacobs, Howard & Shapiro, LLP. Robert Shapiro was one of the attorneys who successfully defended OJ Simpson.

A number of other blogs, including, Alternet, and were also threatened with lawsuits and were subjected to harassment by Rockstar.

Tsai issued an apology and retracted all the statements he made on his "Boycott Facebook" group: "I apologize for being disgusted by the statements, beliefs, thoughts and actions of two individuals: Rockstar CEO Russell Weiner and his father, Michael Savage Weiner," he wrote. "I apologize that you feel the need to threaten and silence individuals & organizations."

Tsai also told Rockstar in a public letter that he refused to be intimidated by their threats and would continue to boycott the energy drink company. Tsai's Facebook account has since been reinstated. Tsai has yet to receive a plausible explanation for why his account was shut down in the first place.

For his part, Editor Bill Browning wrote: "In April, guest blogger Michael Jones reported on Rockstar energy drink's connections with well-known homophobic radio host Michael Savage (real name: Michael Weiner). About a week ago, Rockstar's lawyers came calling and threatened legal action if we didn't immediately remove the offending post for "factual inaccuracies." The beverage company took issue with two sentences from our guest blogger's post. It claims they are untrue and should cause the post to be removed from the archives.Our Terms of Service gives us the copyright for the version of Michael's post we published. We have offered Rockstar's lawyers a correction to the post, but we've refused to remove it."

San Francisco Mayor Gavin Newsom, who is running for governor of California, recently returned a $25,000 campaign contribution from Russell Weiner. The request to return the donation came from a progressive activist in San Francisco, Aaron Baldwin, who told Newsom about Weiner's identity. "When I found out Rockstar was affiliated with Michael Savage, I thought it was necessary people know,'' Baldwin said, arguing that public documents show "it is a privately-held company, the [Savage] ssets are co-mingled with it.''

Baldwin said documents show Russell Weiner was also a founder of the ultra-conservative Paul Revere Society, which uses the same address as Savage Productions. The group has promoted immediate deportation of illegal aliens; support for "traditional marriage'' only; and "requiring health tests for all foreign born immigrants.'' These are all things "that are completely opposed to everything that Gavin stands for,'' according to Baldwin.

Weiner, in a phone interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, denied the allegations. "The Truth about Rockstar site is full of misinformation,'' he said. He claimed he started the firm "with $50,000 of my own money. It has nothing to do with my dad. He's not an officer. He's not the founder or the creator.''

For more information, go to a site updating news on the boycott.

Joe Siegel has written for a number of other GLBT publications, including In newsweekly and Options.