Instead of backing down to threats of a product boycott, the CEO of Goya is doubling down on his outspoken support for President Donald Trump, which put him at odds with activists and some of his customers. Speaking to the media, Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue made it clear he has no plans to apologize for his full-throated praise of President Donald Trump.
The comments in question included the following: “We are truly blessed to have a leader like President Trump, who is a builder… That is what my grandfather did. He came to this country to build, to grow, to prosper… We have an incredible builder, and we pray… We pray for our leadership, our president…”
The comments came initially during an appearance by Unanue in the Rose Garden at the White House, during which the president announced the White House Hispanic Prosperity Initiative. Both Unanue’s comments, and the initiative, sparked criticism from critics and praise from Trump’s supporters. The hashtag, #Goyaway started trending on social media, and some Hispanic leaders openly called for a boycott. Meanwhile, Unanue appeared on the Fox opinion show, Fox & Friends, calling any talk of a boycott “suppression of speech.”
Unanue went on to say the criticism was a double standard, pointing out that he was happy to accept an invitation from former First Lady Michelle Obama to help promote her healthy eating initiative. “… you’re allowed to talk praise to one president, but you’re not … when I was called to be part of this commission to aid in economic and educational prosperity, and you make a positive comment, all of a sudden, that’s not acceptable… If you’re called by the president of the United States, you’re going to say, ‘No, I’m busy, no thank you?’ I didn’t say that to the Obamas, and I didn’t say that to President Trump.”
During his remarks, Unanue also said he would donate one million cans of Goya chickpeas and one million other food products to American food banks, adding that he hoped these donations would assist families struggling due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In response to Unanue’s remarks praising Trump, HUD Secretary Julian Castro encouraged people to “reconsider” buying Goya, and Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez also spoke out against the Goya CEO. Given their following on social media, this sentiment exploded, leading to both detractors and supporters of Trump to speak out, either in text or with their wallets.
Through it all, Unanue stuck to his message, a clear indicator that he likely considered the PR cost of appearing with the president, and that he had his message prepared for the inevitable public response, given the tumultuous political climate. While there are currently no official numbers as to the financial cost or benefit of the situation, there’s no doubt more people talking about Goya this week than there would have been otherwise.
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Scott Levenson, CEO of The Advance Group PR