After coming under fire for making donations to some groups accused of being anti-LGBT, AEG owner Philip Anschutz has made a $1 million donation to the Elton John AIDS Foundation which advocates for LGBT people in Sub-Saharan Africa.
“My gift to the Elton John Foundation is intended to emphasize that we support freedom of all people to live their lives peacefully, without interference from others,” Anschutz said in a statement provided to Billboard. “Sexuality is among the most personal of issues, and it has never been my intent to weigh in on people’s private lives. I support the rights of all people and oppose discrimination and intolerance against the LGBTQ community. I see this as a matter of basic human rights.”
He added, “Our Foundation supports a broad range of philanthropic causes. I regret if any money given to a charity for other purposes may have indirectly worked against these values. That was not my intention, it does not reflect my beliefs, and I am committed to making sure our internal processes are strengthened so that it does not happen again.”
In 2017, Anschutz’s foundation gave $63.7 million to charities in the form of 900 donations ranging from $1,000 to $2 million to about 800 different groups, mostly in Colorado and Oklahoma. He came under fire at the beginning of 2018 when it was revealed $770,000 in donations were made to at least seven groups that have been accused by gay rights organizations of making anti-LGBTQ statements in the past. That includes $200,000 pledge in 2016 to Focus on the Family, which is considered anti-LGBTQ because of its opposition to protections against discrimination, and and $50,000 to Dare to Share, a ministry run by anti-gay pastor Greg Stier.
Anschutz was also widely criticized in 2017, days after the Coachella lineup was announced, when it was revealed he had contributed to three anti-LGBTQ groups between 2010 and 2013 — $110,000 for the Alliance Defending Freedom, $50,000 to the National Christian Foundation and $30,000 to the Family Research Council. He said at the time that accusations that he was homophobic were “fake news” and “garbage,” declaring “I unequivocally support the rights of all people without regard to sexual orientation.”
In making the donation to the Elton John Foundation, Anschutz is trying to change the narrative and reinforce that he does not harbor anti-LGBT sentiments. AEG is promoting John’s three-year Farewell Yellow Brick Road retirement tour which begins later this year.
“The donation by Phil to (the foundation) is in keeping with the special connection and consistently supportive, collaborative relationship I have developed with AEG for more than a decade. We will put his donation to work to ensure that vulnerable groups are not left behind in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” said John in a statement provided to Billboard. “This funding will help our programs provide life-saving work for LGBT communities around the world, starting with the LGBT Fund in Sub-Saharan Africa.”
The Elton John AIDS Foundation is a $10 million public-private partnership with the U.S. Government’s President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief initiative that “tackles the stigma, discrimination and violence that prevents LGBT people in Sub-Saharan Africa from accessing the health and HIV services they need,” according to a release from the foundation. “To date, the Fund has already helped nearly 23,000 people in 20 countries, most of which criminalize same-sex relations.”