President Donald Trump took to Twitter Wednesday morning as he sought to undermine the backlash Goya Foods has been facing from core Latino consumers after the company's chief executive, Robert Unanue, said "we are all truly blessed" to have Trump as a leader last week.
"Goya Foods is doing GREAT. The Radical Left smear machine backfired, people are buying like crazy!" Trump tweeted.
Trump's response led to more fresh calls from Latino consumers to boycott Goya, which says it's the nation's largest Hispanic-owned food brand.
Unanue's words praising Trump's leadership at a time when Latinos have been disproportionately hit by the health and economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic did not sit well with many people who went online to post videos of themselves trashing Goya products or sharing homemade "adobo" and "sazón" recipes under the hashtags #BoycottGoya and #goyaway.
Many Latinos also used the hashtags to express how they feel certain Trump administration policies and actions have dehumanized and attacked south-of-the-border immigrants for political gain starting with the 2015 launch of his presidential campaign, when he suggested that Mexican newcomers were criminals and rapists. Others expressed their discontent with the president's family separation policy at the border and his attempt to dismantle the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which allows young immigrants who have been in the U.S. since they were children to stay.
The strong criticism over Unanue's comments and the ensuing boycott sparked a counter movement on social media, mainly spearheaded by Republicans and Trump supporters, asking people to buy Goya products. People have been using the hashtag #BuyGoya to post photos of themselves filling supermarket carts and baskets with Goya products.
As Trump amplifies his efforts to rally up Latino voters and others in an attempt at re-election, political scientist Stephen Nuño said the president is using the same strategies that helped him get elected in 2016.
"He is an entertainer and his entertainment is to antagonize 'the enemy.' That's what his followers like. He has found just another way to antagonize the opposition and those folks that like him, like him because of that," said Nuño, communications director and senior analyst at the polling firm Latino Decisions and a former NBC News contributor.
Trump tweeted about Goya hours after his daughter, Ivanka, posted a picture of herself holding a Goya can of Black beans, captioned with the brand's slogan: "If it’s Goya, it has to be good." The post from the senior adviser to the president, which resulted in more #BoycottGoya tweets, also raised concerns over possible violations of the ethical standards for executive-branch employees, who are not supposed to use public office for private gain or “for the endorsement of any product.”
The White House responded to the allegations in a statement saying, Ivanka "has every right to express her personal support.”
“Only the media and the cancel culture movement would criticize Ivanka for showing her personal support for a company that has been unfairly mocked, boycotted and ridiculed for supporting this administration - one that has consistently fought for and delivered for the Hispanic community," said Carolina Hurley, a White House spokesperson.
The Goya fiasco comes at a time when Trump is trying to reach out to Latino voters. On Thursday, he promised to expand of the "Hispanic Prosperity Initiative," an effort that has existed since the President George W. Bush administration, by including more taxpayer support for charter and private schools as well as added tax benefits for "Opportunity Zone" development in urban neighborhoods.
In an interview on "Fox & Friends", Unanue said he's "not apologizing" for his remarks, arguing the backlash revealed a double standard, adding that he attended a healthy eating initiative at the invitation of former president Barack Obama and and first lady Michelle Obama in 2012.
In their latest poll, done in partnership with the Voter Participation Center and Voto Latinos, Latino Decisions found that in six battleground states (Nevada, North Carolina, Pennsylvania, Texas, Arizona, and Florida) almost 40 percent of Latino Republicans agreed with the statement "Trump and the Republicans use toxic rhetoric to divide us from one another." Despite that, 57 percent of Republican Latinos said they planned to vote for Trump.
"It is going to be a turn off for many people in the Latino community, but there's going to be a strong undercurrent of people within the Latino community that'll respond positively. That group is not a large group," said Nuño. "A lot of this is less about attracting Latinos and it's more about attracting white voters" as well as his already-established base, which includes some Latinos "who already approve of him."