Goya CEO Faces Backlash for Praising Trump

Politicians, restaurateurs and consumers are calling for a boycott of the largest Hispanic-owned food company in the United States after its CEO lavished praise on the president.

Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue (Getty Images)
Jul. 10, 2020
By Daniel Dawson
Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue (Getty Images)

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Robert Unanue and Goya Foods have been cat­a­pulted into the head­lines after the company’s CEO spoke at what should have been a fairly rou­tine White House press event.

During the announce­ment of an exec­u­tive order to pro­mote Hispanic Americans’ access to edu­ca­tional and eco­nomic oppor­tu­ni­ties on Thursday, Unanue praised President Donald Trump and said the coun­try was truly blessed” to be under his lead­er­ship.

Let’s be clear GoyaFoods, President Trump has left Latinos and many Americans hun­gry. Cages Latino Children. Has for­got­ten the Latino com­mu­nity through this pan­demic. Has called Mexicans rapists. We are blessed? I think Latinos we are being mis­treated.- José Andrés, founder, World Central Kitchen

We’re all truly blessed at the same time to have a leader like President Trump who is a builder, and that’s what my grand­fa­ther did,” said Unanue, who donated to the president’s 2016 elec­tion cam­paign.

He came to this coun­try to build, to grow, to pros­per. And so we have an incred­i­ble builder, and we pray for our lead­er­ship, our pres­i­dent, and we pray for our coun­try that we will con­tinue to pros­per and to grow,” he added.

In addi­tion to pro­mot­ing the exec­u­tive order, Unanue also announced that the com­pany would donate one mil­lion cans of chick­peas and one mil­lion other food items to food banks through­out the coun­try, in order to help mit­i­gate the impacts of the Covid-19 pan­demic.

While it is not unusual for busi­ness exec­u­tives invited to the White House to lav­ish the pres­i­dent with praise, the chief exec­u­tive of the immi­grant-founded, Hispanic-owned food com­pany has found him­self on the receiv­ing end of an unusu­ally strong back­lash.

Let’s be clear @GoyaFoods, President Trump has left Latinos and many Americans hun­gry. Cages Latino Children. Has for­got­ten the Latino com­mu­nity through this pan­demic. Has called Mexicans rapists,” José Andrés, the Spanish chef and phil­an­thropist, tweeted. We are blessed? I think Latinos we are being mis­treated.”

Other notable fig­ures to crit­i­cize the com­pany were Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and the for­mer sec­re­tary of hous­ing and urban devel­op­ment under President Barack Obama, Julián Castro, both of whom sug­gested a boy­cott.

Castro, who is now the mayor of San Antonio, Texas, tweeted, “@GoyaFoods has been a sta­ple of so many Latino house­holds for gen­er­a­tions. Now their CEO, Bob Unanue, is prais­ing a pres­i­dent who vil­lainizes and mali­ciously attacks Latinos for polit­i­cal gain. Americans should think twice before buy­ing their prod­ucts. #Goyaway.”

Many oth­ers on social media have added to calls for a boy­cott of the com­pany, with the topic trend­ing for much of the day. At the time of writ­ing, Goya Foods had not responded to the fall­out.

However, Unanue went on Fox News the fol­low­ing day to defend his appear­ance with the pres­i­dent.

He said that he would not apol­o­gize” and accused the boy­cotters of sup­pres­sion of speech.” Unanue added that he had worked on sim­i­lar pro­grams with the Obama admin­is­tra­tion.

Goya Foods, which sells an array of prod­ucts includ­ing olive oil, has long ben­e­fited from a loyal cus­tomer base, many of whom are Hispanic.

Over the course of three gen­er­a­tions, the com­pany has grown from a mod­est cor­ner store in New York City to a multi­na­tional with $1.5 bil­lion in annual sales.

We like to say we don’t mar­ket to Latinos, we mar­ket as Latinos,” Unanue once said.

However, President Trump and his administration’s poli­cies – includ­ing fam­ily sep­a­ra­tion of mostly Hispanic migrants at the south­ern U.S. bor­der and efforts to build a wall between the United States and Mexico – have been viewed unfa­vor­ably by most Hispanics.

According to a June 20 poll from the Pew Research Center, two-thirds of Hispanics in the U.S. say they would not sup­port the pres­i­den­t’s reelec­tion.

His deep unpop­u­lar­ity with Hispanics has helped fuel the calls for a boy­cott of Goya prod­ucts with some chefs and restau­ra­teurs sug­gest­ing alter­na­tive sources for authen­tic Hispanic cui­sine and ingre­di­ents.

I’ve been wait­ing for this moment my entire life. I make sazón and I’m not a Trump sup­porter,” Eric Rivera, the owner of Addo, a Seattle-based food deliv­ery and take-out restau­rant, tweeted. If you sup­port Goya, you sup­port Trump.”

This is a devel­op­ing story. Check back for updates. (Dec. 17 20:10 UTC)

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