Defying pleas and petitions urging Hyatt Hotels to not host to a well-documented, anti-Muslim hate group, officials with the hospitality conglomerate said Thursday they would move ahead with plans to provide accommodations and discounted rates next week for guests attending the ACT for America conference at a suburban Washington, D.C. location.
ACT for America, which dubiously describes itself as “the nation’s largest and most influential national security organization,” plans to host its 10th annual national conference at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, a convention hotel in northern Virginia that’s located a mile or so from Reagan National Airport, and just across the Potomac River from the National Mall in downtown Washington, D.C. For attendees who registered before the August 17th deadline, Hyatt offered a “special hotel room rate” of $299.
Outraged by the hotel chain’s coziness with ACT for America, an organization identified by both The Southern Poverty Law Center and The Anti-Defamation League as an anti-Muslim extremist and hate group, a coalition of civil rights organizations and activists on Thursday delivered a petition with 100,000 signatures and a letter co-signed by 34 different faith groups demanding Hyatt refuse to host those attending the September 4-5 events.
In a letter addressed to Hyatt Hotels President and CEO Mark S. Hoplamazian, the Rev. Ron Stief and Kathryn Mary Lohr — co-chairs of Shoulder To Shoulder, a coalition of 34 religious denominations and organizations that advocate for fair treatment of American Muslims — expressed the group’s “deep concerns about this event and Hyatt’s decision to host it.” The letter noted:
ACT for America is a hate group, plain and simple,” Stief and Lohre wrote. “The hate espoused by ACT directly impacts Americans who are Muslim, including the many Muslim families in Northern Virginia, where most of Virginia’s 300,000+ Muslims live. Just last year, in March 2017, the home of a Muslim family in Alexandria — walking distance from your hotel — was the target of hateful vandalism. . . .
At a time in our nation’s history when hate groups and white supremacists have gained public attention and propagated violence through rallies and public events, and when anti-Muslim hate crimes have reached unprecedented levels, we are asking you to consider your moral responsibility as a corporation to contribute to a society that espouses inclusion and dignity, rather than the hate and fear-mongering to which ACT for America is committed.”
Mila Delfin, an executive assistant to the general manager at the Hyatt Regency Crystal City, said the hotel was aware of concerns about the convention and had received numerous calls from people inquiring about the meetings since the religious groups issued their petition and statement.
But, Delfin said, the company “made a decision not to discriminate against any group because they have freedom of speech, too. We made a decision not to cancel this meeting.”
Earlier this summer, Hyatt made a big show of its support for “major diversity and inclusive initiatives,” noting in a news release that had joined the CEO ACTION for Diversity & Inclusion initiative and had signed on to the United Nations LGBTI Standards of Conduct for Business. The CEO ACTION is a collaboration of about 400 chief executives across various industries who have committed to support and encourage open dialogue within their companies regarding diversity, share best practices within the larger business community, and expand unconscious bias training within their respective firms. The UN LGBTI standards were set by the U.N.’s Human Rights Office.
“On a global scale, we’re standing up against all forms of discrimination,” Malaika Myers, Hyatt’s chief human resources officer, said in the statement announcing the diversity initiatives. “We know that we can only be a truly inclusive workplace if we create an environment that allows our colleagues to bring their whole selves to work every day so they can be their best and better care for others.”
Hyatt’s rationale for welcoming an anti-Muslim organization, however, failed to mollify many among the protesting groups, who argue the hotel chain is placing profits over human decency by allowing a hate group to hold its meetings within its halls.
“Other global hotel companies are denying hate groups,” Scott Simpson, Public Advocacy Director for Muslim Advocates, one of groups leading the crusade against Hyatt’s decision, said in a statement. He cited Hilton, Wyndham, Airbnb, Accor Hotels, and InterContinental Hotels among those who have refused to allow hate groups to stay at their establishments.
“Yet Hyatt is opening its doors to ACT for America to stay with their guests and staff – and even giving them a discount,” Simpson said. “Hyatt could take a better path that’s more in line with both its claimed corporate values and the values of the nearly 100,000 consumers speaking up. But until then, it seems that Hyatt is content to be one of last resorts for racists.”