Content Guy’s Note: Stories in this section are, in my estimation, important and relevant to business. However, they are relegated to this slot because some MNB readers have made clear that they prefer a politics-free MNB; I can't do that because sometimes the news calls out for coverage and commentary, but at least I can make it easy for folks to skip it if they so desire.
• Goya Foods is the subject of a consumer backlash on social media and threatened boycott because of comments made by its president, Bob Unanue, last week about US President Donald Trump.
As the New York Times reports, Unanue "was at the White House on Thursday to announce that the company would donate one million cans of chickpeas and another one million pounds of food to food banks in the United States as part of the Hispanic Prosperity Initiative, an executive order from Mr. Trump that was created to improve access to educational and economic opportunities."
What Unanue said was this: "We’re all truly blessed at the same time to have a leader like President Trump, who is a builder. And so we have an incredible builder. And we pray. We pray for our leadership, our president, and we pray for our country, that we will continue to prosper and to grow."
The Times writes that "Unanue’s comments drew swift condemnation on social media from people who were upset that a company whose products are popular among Latinos and others would so openly support a president who has vilified immigrants, especially those from Latin America, and whose harsh policies have targeted them. The hashtags #Goyaway and #BoycottGoya quickly formed to share criticism from many, including those who routinely buy Goya products."
Unanue defended his comments in an appearance of Fox News, and noted that he'd said positive things about the Obama administration while working with First Lady Michelle Obama in 2012 on a healthy meals initiative. "So you’re allowed to talk good or to praise one president, but you’re not allowed, when I was called to be part of this commission to aid in economic and education prosperity and you make positive comment, all of the sudden that’s not acceptable,” Unanue said, referring to the boycott calls as "suppression of speech."
- KC's View:
I actually think that Unanue makes a legitimate point about having said nice things about both Obama and Trump, though it also is fair to suggest that maybe he was a mite tone deaf about the degree of hostility toward the Trump administration held by many in the Latino community. If he'd praised the initiative and left it there, he probably wouldn't have had a problem. But, he spoke his mind, and that's okay … Goya is a private company, he's third-generation ownership, and so it isn't like he is going to lose his job.
That said, it really isn't "suppression of speech" for people to object to what he said and even call for a boycott for political reasons. People do that all the time - they boycott the consumption of grapes, or the programs of a TV network, or the products made by certain companies or in certain countries. That's what free speech is … and, by the way, we're living in a highly polarized time when a lot of companies - public and private - actually are aware that they are taking a risk by taking a stand on the important issues of the day. It would be disingenuous of them, for example, to suggest that if someone wanted to boycott their business because it supports the Black Lives Matter movement, it is an act of attempted suppression of speech. It is just a risk they've decided is worth taking.