Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue turned some heads Thursday, July 9, when, at a White House event, he said, “We are all truly blessed … to have a leader like President Trump.”
Twitter lit up, with a number of influencers and heads of Latino-focused voters’ rights organizations urging people to stop buying from the Latin American-focused food giant.
Unanue “thinks we’re ‘blessed to have a leader’ who’s letting this pandemic kill us, cage our children, and constantly dehumanizes us,” Voto Latino tweeted. “Yo Goya, tell your man to stop praising a racist. Latinos made him and his family rich by buying Goya products for decades.”
Unanue was at the White House to meet with President Donald Trump and other Hispanic business and political leaders before Trump signed an executive order called the Hispanic Prosperity Initiative.
Here’s what you need to know:
Unanue Praised Trump as a ‘Leader’ & a ‘Builder,’ Comparing the President to His Immigrant Grandfather
Trump opened his roundtable discussion by telling the Hispanic leaders gathered — including Unanue, Florida Lieutenant Governor Jeanette Nuñez, Waypointe Investment Group founder Lourdes Aguirre and pro-Trump commentator Steve Cortes — that he has “done really well with Hispanics.”
“We like them, they like me and we’ve helped them a lot with the jobs,” Trump said, according to the White House transcript. “Whether it’s jobs, education or so many other things, it’s been really good.”
Most around the table praised Trump in their remarks, in what has been widely reported as an informal tradition at the president’s cabinet meetings and roundtables since he first took office.
Nuñez lauded Trump for championing “faith, freedom and future,” and Aguirre called the president the “beacon of hope for the Hispanic community.” Unanue also told Trump, “You’re an incredible builder,” according to the transcript.
The televised signing ceremony in the White House Rose Garden, however, drew the most attention, with Unanue effusively praising Trump at the podium.
Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue: "We're all truly blessed… to have a leader like President Trump who is a builder." pic.twitter.com/2VdG4qAnpK
— The Hill (@thehill) July 9, 2020
“We’re all truly blessed at the same time to have a leader like President Trump, who is a builder,” Unanue said. “And that’s what my grandfather did. He came to this country to build, to grow and to prosper. And we have an incredible builder and we pray, we pray for our leadership, our president and for our country, that we continue to prosper and to grow.”
Unanue’s grandfather, Don Prudencia Unanue, migrated from Spain to Puerto Rico, then to New York City, where he would found Goya Foods in 1936, according to the company website.
Unanue’s Comments Were Swiftly Decried by Hispanic Activists, Get-Out-the-Vote Organizations & Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
No apology from @GoyaFoods will be sufficient to erase today’s comments.
If GOYA cares about the Hispanic/Latinx community (AND REALLY WANTS TO APOLOGIZE) then they better start by sending food to asylum seekers at the border and feed EVERY SINGLE immigrant Trump has detained.
— Juan Escalante (@JuanSaaa) July 9, 2020
Immigrant rights activist Juan Escalante said, “No apology from [Goya Foods] will be sufficient to erase today’s comments.” He then referenced the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policies, including family separation for some asylum seekers from Mexico and South America, which was official United States policy in 2018, according to the New York Times.
“If Goya cares about the Hispanic/Latinx community (and really wants to apologize), then they better start by sending food to asylum seekers at the border and feed every single immigrant Trump has detained,” Escalante continued.
Actor Kirk Acevedo also urged Hispanic shoppers to boycott Goya products.
BOYCOTT GOYA FOODS!
We're all truly blessed to have a leader like President Trump”
-Robert Unanue CEO @GoyaFoods
U do realize Latinos buy your products? The same people Trump has routinely shit on!
— kirk acevedo (@kirkacevedo) July 10, 2020
Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez suggested that Hispanic Americans might consider making their own seasonings rather than buying from the food giant.
Oh look, it’s the sound of me Googling “how to make your own Adobo” https://t.co/YOScAcyAnC
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) July 10, 2020
Meanwhile, Nicaraguan American commentator Ana Navarro-Cárdenas, a frequent Trump critic, urged angry Goya consumers to donate to food banks rather than throwing away the company’s products, insisting that Unanue has “every right to his opinion.”
Please don’t throw away food. Many hungry people in our country. Donate unwanted @GoyaFoods products to a food bank. There are many alternative Latin products in the market. The CEO of Goya has every right to his opinion. Consumers have every right to theirs. It’s called freedom. https://t.co/0HVfHT980o pic.twitter.com/W56fyxfT0T
— Ana Navarro-Cárdenas (@ananavarro) July 10, 2020
Heavy reached out for comment from Goya’s public relations chief but did not immediately hear back.
Unanue Went on Fox & Friends Friday Morning & Said, ‘I’m Not Apologizing’
On Friday, Unanue went on Fox News’s morning program Fox & Friends, where he was asked about the online outrage his comments had sparked.
“It’s suppression of speech,” Unanue began, noting that in 2012, he partnered with First Lady Michelle Obama on a nutritious meals program and introduced President Barack Obama at the White House afterward and didn’t receive any flak for it. Host Steve Doocy said, “It seems like it’s a double standard, doesn’t it?”
“You’re allowed to talk good or praise one president but you’re not allowed … to aid in economic and educational prosperity?” he said. “You make a positive comment and all of a sudden that’s not acceptable. I’m not apologizing … Especially if you’re called by the President of the United States, you’re gonna say, ‘No, I’m sorry, I’m busy, no thank you.’ I didn’t say that to the Obama’s and I didn’t say that to President Trump.”