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Robert Unanue, the head of the New Jersey-based company that claims to be the largest Hispanic-owned food label in the country, told FOX Business Friday the boycott is "a reflection of a division that exists today in our country" that is "killing our nation."
"We choose to love and to build and that’s what we’ve been doing, looking for prosperity," Unanue said on FOX Business Network's "Varney & Company," where he continued to defend Trump.
“We’re with the president. We're with this country -- right, left, center, up and down," Unanue said.
Unanue was invited to speak at the White House on Thursday for Trump’s Hispanic Prosperity Initiative, an executive order to bolster education and economic opportunities for Hispanic Americans. During the event, Unanue briefly remarked on the company's history, which was founded in 1936 by Unanue’s grandfather who immigrated to the U.S. from Spain.
"We're all truly blessed at the same time to have a leader like President Trump, who is a builder," Unanue said, relating Trump to the company's founding story. "That’s what my grandfather did, 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 our country that we will continue to prosper and to grow.” Unanue went on to say Goya would donate 1 million cans of Goya chickpeas and 1 million of the New Jersey-based company’s other food products to American food banks aimed at helping those impacted by the coronavirus pandemic.
Unanue's support for Trump, however, instantly set off controversy, with social media users calling for consumers to boycott the brand with hashtags like #BoycottGoya and #Goyaway trending on Twitter.
Politicians like Rep. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez and former Democratic presidential candidate Julian Castro and a number of celebrities took aim at the company, slamming Goya's support for Trump, noting his administration's harsh policies toward Hispanics, like separating immigrant families at the U.S.-Mexico border.
Others called out the president's derogatory campaign comments in 2015 suggesting Mexican immigrants were criminals and rapists.
AOC and stars like "Hamilton" creator Lin-Manuel Miranda suggested people start making their own recipes for seasonings rather than rely on Goya products.
"Oh look, it's the sound of me Googling 'how to make your own Adobo,'" AOC tweeted, following up the remark with a recipe.
Immigrant youth-focused organization United We Dream created a petition for people to stop buying goods from Goya, saying it wouldn’t support those “who endorse and comply with a White Supremacist regime.”
"We all know that Trump has not stopped attacks on immigrants, Latinx folks, Black people, and all people of color, since day 1. We must show CEO of Goya Foods Robert Unanue that we won’t stand for this! If Goya wants our business, they must respect and fight for our humanity!" the organization said in a statement.
Unanue said the pushback was a "suppression of speech" in a separate interview with "Fox & Friends" earlier Friday, explaining he was previously invited to the White House by the Obama Administration hosted during Hispanic Heritage Month.
“So, you’re allowed to talk good or to praise one president, but you’re not allowed to aid in economic and educational prosperity? And you make a positive comment and all of a sudden, it is not acceptable,” Unanue said.