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Goya Foods CEO "not apologizing" for praising President Trump

Backlash over Goya CEO's Trump support
Goya Foods faces backlash over CEO's support for Trump 01:13

The head of Goya Foods —which sells Hispanic cuisine staples like garbanzo beans and adobo and bills itself as the country's largest Hispanic-owned food company — is not waving any olive branches in confronting a backlash for extolling the virtues of President Donald Trump.

Goya CEO Robert Unanue described Americans as "truly blessed" to have Mr. Trump's leadership in an appearance Thursday at the White House held to unveil Mr. Trump's "Hispanic Prosperity Initiative." Not long after, #BoycottGoya, #GoyaFoods and #Goyaway began trending on social media platforms.

Goya Foods issued a statement later in the day that did not mention any of the hostility. Instead, an unrepentant Unanue repeated his backing of Mr. Trump's Hispanic Prosperity Initiative, established by executive order at the event.

"Our country faces a time of historic challenge but we will meet that challenge together and continue to work towards greatness, focus on a strong recovery, and hold onto the hope for a healthier future for all," Unanue said in the statement.

Unanue was more blunt on Fox News Friday morning, telling the conservative-leaning network: "I'm not apologizing." The calls for a boycott of his company's products were an attempt at "suppression of speech," he added.

"I'm not apologizing for saying — and especially when you're called by the president of the United States — you're gonna say, 'no I'm sorry I'm busy no thank you?," Unanue said. "I didn't say that to the Obamas and I didn't say that to President Trump."

Goya Foods, a family-owned business for nearly 85 years, features 2,500 products, from seasonings and cooking oils, to beans and other Latin American staples as well as frozen products and snacks. Goya offerings are ubiquitous in grocery stores across the U.S., sometimes taking up their own entire aisle.

Those calling for a boycott of Goya products posted a litany of derogatory comments made by Mr. Trump as well as his policies, including his administration's separations of detained immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border.

"We learned to bake bread in this pandemic, we can learn to make our own adobo con pimienta. Bye." tweeted actor Lin-Manuel Miranda.

Former U.S. housing secretary and Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro bashed Unanue on Twitter for extolling a president who he said has vilified Goya's Hispanic customer base, while Democratic Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York said she'll learn to make some of the Latin American staples Goya sells.

One business owner saw opportunity in the brouhaha, with Seattle restaurant owner and chef Eric Rivera seizing the chance to pitch his own line of seasoning. 

"I've been waiting for this moment my entire life," Rivera tweeted. "I make sazón and I'm not a Trump supporter. If you support Goya you support Trump."

Goya Foods was founded in Manhattan in 1936 by Don Prudencio Unanue and his wife Carolina, immigrants from Spain, with their grandson Robert now CEO of the company. Currently based in Jersey City, New Jersey, it has 26 manufacturing and distribution facilities in the U.S., Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic and Spain, and employs more than 4,000 globally.

According to Federal Elections Commission data, Unanue donated $6,000 last year to Republican political groups.

Many of those that came to Goya's defense Friday pointed out the company's history of philanthropy.

This spring, Goya donated over 300,000 pounds of food, or about 270,000 meals, to food banks and other organizations as part of its pandemic relief effort. Last month, Goya showed up with thousands of pounds of food for families in the Bronx and Harlem who have been affected by COVID-19.

— The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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