Chick-fil-A Spokesman Dies in Midst of Gay Marriage Controversy

4:33 PM PST 07/27/2012 by Paul Bond

Don Perry, a 29-year veteran of the chicken restaurant, unexpectedly died, prompting a wide reaction across Twitter.

As Chick-fil-A grapples perhaps with more negative attention from the press than at any time in its 45-year history, the restaurant chain’s long-time media spokesman, Donald Perry, suddenly died on Friday.

Chick-fil-A has been under intense scrutiny for its tradition of operating under “biblical” principles, including an opposition to same-sex marriage, a position that has angered gay-rights activists, including many celebrities.

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Roseanne Barr, for example, tweeted this week that “anyone who eats Shit Fil-A deserves to get the cancer that is sure to come from eating antibiotic filled tortured chickens 4Christ.”

And after Chick-fil-A COO and partial owner Dan Cathy responded with “guilty as charged” when asked during a radio interview about his support of organizations wishing to preserve the traditional definition of marriage, the company was attacked by Boston Mayor Thomas Menino and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The fall-out included a severing of ties with The Jim Henson Co., whose CEO, Lisa Henson, is a strong supporter of gay marriage. Jim Henson Co. had been providing Chick-fil-A with puppets that were given to children who ate at the restaurants, though no more.

It was Perry’s job to deal with press inquiries generated by such hostility to the company’s Christian viewpoints. Perry also served on the board of the journalism school at the University of Georgia.

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“We are saddened to report the news to you that our dear friend Don Perry, vice president of public relations, passed away suddenly this morning,” the company said in a statement emailed to The Hollywood Reporter. “Don was a member of our Chick-fil-A family for nearly 29 years.  For many of you in the media, he was the spokesperson for Chick-fil-A.  He was a well-respected and well-liked media executive in the Atlanta and University of Georgia communities, and we will all miss him. Our thoughts and prayers are with his family.”

Perry was 60. The cause of death has not yet been determined.

News of Perry’s passing was a hot topic Friday on Twitter, and some of the more hateful tweets were being collected at various, usually conservative, websites.

“God is coming for all you @ChickfilA assholes!” read one. “I’m trying to force myself to not make jokes about Chickfila PR rep Don Perry’s death, but its just so damn hard considering karma,” read another.

Another tweeted “God don’t like ugly,” while another wrote, “Cudn’t have happened to a nicer guy!” And radio personality Tom Leykis tweeted: “Thank God I was on the right side of the gay marriage issue!”

Email: Paul.Bond@thr.com

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