As part of its three days of coverage on Amway and its 50th anniversary, the Grand Rapids Press published an interview today with co-founder Richard DeVos (he co-founded the company with Jay Van Andel. Here at MediaMouse.org, we’ve long been critical of Richard DeVos, looking at his political activism, his “charitable” contributions, and his role in funding the religious right.
In the interview, DeVos basically proved everything that we have been saying all along. His comments are awful–he basically says he is right to be against gay marriage (although he claims to have gay friends, so that must mean it’s OK) and that he can do whatever the heck he wants with his money.
Usually I try to shy away from just quoting extensively from The Grand Rapids Press, but there really isn’t much to be said. DeVos proves himself to be a completely awful human being.
Here’s his thoughts on gay marriage:
Q: You gave $100,000 to the effort to defeat the recognition of gay marriage in Florida. Why did you choose to put money behind that cause?
A: Because I believe in it. That’s just a sacred issue of respecting marriage. It was not an anti-gay thing.
I have been hung in effigy by the gay community for a long time, from when I was on President Reagan’s first AIDS commission.
Q: How does that tie in with the gay marriage issue?
A: From that point on, that’s when they were hanging me in effigy because I wasn’t sympathetic to all of their requests for special treatment. Because at that time it was always somebody else’s fault. And I said, “You are responsible for your actions, too, you know. Conduct yourself properly,” which is a pretty solid Christian principle. You’ve got to take responsibility for your actions. It went from there to a series of requests for special treatment.
I would say, “I understand who you are. I accept who you are. Live your life. I will respect you. But don’t keep asking for favors.” Don’t ask for a concession on the marriage issue, which is not vital to them, in my opinion. They’ve made it a vital issue because they want to.
Q: Is there a solution? A compromise you would support?
A: Call it something else. Call it anything you want to. But marriage is a sacred document, OK? A sacred sacrament in the church and in the world. Don’t mess with it.
Go do something else. I deal with a lot of wonderful gay people. I hire a lot of them. I use a lot of them. I respect them. They’re terrific. I am good friends with them. But you live your life the way you want to live and I’ll live mine and I won’t stick my nose in yours. But don’t keep trying to change things. That’s all.
Q: Do you think it’s a winnable fight, long term?
A: For them? They’ve won a lot of fights. They’re a tough bunch. They keep asking for concessions all their lives. I don’t put anything past their ability to adjust things to their way on some equality basis. That’s all fine until you start dealing with sacred issues.
And on his wealth:
Q: There were a lot of people who thought: “Well, here’s a billionaire and he went over to England and bought a heart.” The average person who is in his 70s would not be able to afford to do that and may not have been able to have that same opportunity.
A: That’s true.
Q: How do you respond to those people? How does that make you feel?
A: I guess my quick reaction, my cute reaction, is: “That’s the benefit of making money, isn’t it? That’s the benefit of being industrious.”
I look at that as the hand of God. What happened in my case, there’s no other explanation for it. There are too many little things that occurred.
I’ve always been greedy. But never to the point where I corrupted the system. The normal desire to make money is always there. But it was never so powerful in the building of the business that it overcame those things.
Unfortunately, this really only touches the surface. DeVos has been a huge benefactor to the religious right and many of its key institutions over the years. He was instrumental in developing the modern conservative infrastructure and has given considerable money to Republican candidates and the party as a whole.
He isn’t simply a guy who “made it” and is spreading his money around–he’s actively pursuing a specific ideological agenda. Sure, he might give some money that benefits some in this community, but even those contributions have ideological underpinnings (for example, contributions to Christian schools).