By Friday morning, #BoycottGoya and #Goyaway had been trending on social media after the CEO of Goya Foods, Robert Unanue, offered up praise for Donald Trump.
According to CNN, Unanue visited the White House Rose Garden on Thursday as part of Trump’s Hispanic Prosperity Initiative, an executive order intended to improve Hispanic Americans’ access to economic and educational opportunities. Unanue announced Goya’s donation of one million chickpea cans and one million other food product to American food banks. He explained that he wanted to assist families who were struggling from the coronavirus pandemic. “We are very proud to give back to this nation, to the food banks which are going to be needing some of that important food,” Unanue said.
Critics primarily took issue when Unanue praised Trump’s leadership, despite many arguments that he was a major component in the United State’s failure to address the coronavirus sooner.
“We are all truly blessed… to have a leader like President Trump who is a builder,” Unanue said in his Rose Garden speech. “We have an incredible builder, and we pray. We pray for our leadership, our president.”
The fact that Unanue would visit Trump’s White House at all angered many Latinx leaders, including former Democratic presidential nominee Julián Castro. “@GoyaFoods has been a staple of so many Latino households for generations,” he tweeted on Thursday. “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.”
Many social media users mirrored Castro’s sentiments by calling for a boycott of Goya’s food products. Castro is right about Trump not being much of an advocate for Latinx communities. He launched his 2016 presidential campaign by calling Mexican immigrants “rapists” and he placed the blame on them for bringing drugs into the United States. On top of all this, he spent much of his presidency attempting to build a wall along the southern U.S. border and he even carried out an order that separated children from parents when they were apprehended at the border.
Despite all this, Unanue still had praise for Trump and he tried to use his history with the Obamas to justify his association with Trump. In a Friday interview with Fox News, Unanue said he was “not apologizing” for his comments and he described the boycott movement as “suppression of speech.”
Unanue argued that there was a double standard in people’s reaction to his praise for Trump versus his association with other presidents. He cited his invitation from the former first lady Michelle Obama in 2012 for a Florida event promoting her Let’s Move! healthy-eating initiative.
“Goya is utilizing their incredible reach into communities across the country to get this helpful information to the hand of parents,” Michelle Obama said at the time. “Everything that Goya is doing – from the MiPlato posters and pamphlets to cookbooks and recipes – center around the idea that we parents can make simple changes to help their children lead healthier lives.”
The Goya Foods company was also recognized by former president Barack Obama in 2011 “for its continued success and commitment to the Hispanic community, the only company to ever be honored by the President,” according to their site.
Unanue made note of these honors in his interview with Fox News.
“You’re allowed to talk good or 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 the sudden that’s not acceptable,” Unanue said. “If you’re called by the president of the United States, you’re going to say, ‘No I’m sorry, I’m busy, no thank you?’ I didn’t say that to the Obamas and I didn’t say that to President Trump.”
Robert Unanue and his brother Peter have donated to various causes across the political spectrum. Robert has given $6,000 to the Republican National Committee and $1,000 to former New Jersey Governor Chris Christie in 2017 when he was vying for president, according to the Center for Responsive Politics. Unanue also donated $2,300 to New Jersey’s Democratic Senator Robert Menendez back in 2010.
Meanwhile, Peter, who serves as Goya’s executive vice president, donated $100,000 to the anti-abortion National Right to Life Victory fund in 2012. Other Unanue family members who are shareholders of Goya have provided thousands of dollars to other, mostly Republican candidates and politicians, including Trump.
Goya remains a privately held, family-owned business since it was founded in 1936 by Unanue’s grandfather, who immigrated from Spain.