THE BLOG
05/13/2014 02:59 pm ET Updated Feb 02, 2016

Pinkwashing a Despot

If you're the CEO of a hotel chain owned by a homophobic, misogynist despot, what do you do?

Well, if you're Christopher Cowdray, CEO of the Dorchester Collection, the exclusive hotel chain that includes two of L.A.'s most iconic hotels, you hide behind your employees and claim that you're the victim of an unfair smear campaign.

The Beverly Hills Hotel and the Hotel Bel-Air have long been welcoming to the LGBT community. The problem is the owner of the properties: the Sultan of Brunei. If you haven't been following, the sultan has announced a new set of barbaric, inhumane laws in Brunei -- you can do that when you're an absolute ruler. Among other atrocities, these laws call for death by stoning for LGBT people and the public torture of women who exercise control over their own bodies.

The Sultan's recent actions have made these two hotels the target of a growing boycott that includes some of Hollywood's top names. But when asked earlier this week by CBS network news if he condemned the sultan's appalling policies, Cowdray said that he had "no opinion whatsoever," while maintaining in the same breath support for the hotel's employees.

Excuse me?

I sent him the response below:

Dear Mr. Cowdray:

I was shocked and outraged by the comments you made in a 'CBS This Morning' interview that aired today regarding new laws in Brunei that punish LGBT people and others with death by stoning. How is it possible for any person of good conscience, let alone the head of a British-based company that no doubt employs large numbers of LGBT people, to say you "don't have any opinion whatsoever" on whether LGBT people should be stoned to death?

In your interview you told reporter Ben Tracy that you flew to Los Angeles to "show your support" for your employees. I have no doubt your words were of little comfort to the hundreds of Dorchester Collection employees who would be murdered by your employer if they were unfortunate enough to live in the country he rules.

Your non-committal response is less than cowardly, it is equal to tacit approval. I ask you quite plainly: if one of your LGBT employees, whom you claim to care for so deeply, were being stoned to death in front of you or on television for the world to see, would you still have "no response whatsoever?"

You also said that you are feeling "picked on" by those of us who are standing up against the Sultan's brutal and inhumane laws, cloaked as religious doctrine. If you feel bullied by our call to boycott properties owned by the sultan, I'm sure you can understand why it's difficult to pity you. You, sir, are not the victim. Unlike LGBT people in Brunei, you are not risking your life simply for being who you are.

I can assure you that until either the sultan reverses course in Brunei and repeals all laws attacking the LGBT community and women, or until the Dorchester Collection is sold to owners who respect all human life, dignity, and worth, we will continue to urge people to take their business to other hotels. And we will not stop fighting his barbaric laws.

You are the C.E.O. of a company owned by a man who is personally responsible for the passage of laws that call for the murdering of innocent LGBT people. You do not have the luxury of remaining silent and having no opinion. Your silence is a stone in the arsenal of your sultan.

And you should be ashamed.

Sincerely,
Lorri Jean
Chief Executive Officer

Sure, the Beverly Hills Hotel and Hotel Bel-Air are LGBT friendly. But the money they take in helps fund a regime that oppresses LGBT people.

Sorry, Mr. Cowdray. A boycott is a no-brainer.