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Free Speech

The Trump Goya Controversy: Boycott as a means of free expression


On July 9, 2020, Bob Unanue, the CEO of Goya Foods, publicly expressed his admiration for President Donald Trump. During a speech at the White House, Unanue praised the president, calling him a “builder.” He stated his belief that the United States was “truly blessed” to have Trump as its leader. Consequently, a bitter row erupted online between proponents of two ever more polarized political factions.

As a company which specializes in Spanish and Latin American cuisine, Goya’s products are particularly popular among the Hispanic population. Given that a large proportion of this demographic are fierce critics of the current president, it should not be overly surprising that large numbers of Goya’s customer base announced their intention to boycott the company in the aftermath of the CEO’s comments.

Interestingly, due to the nature of the current political climate, this controversy has also had the effect of encouraging Trump supporters to buy Goya products, even if they had never done so before.

Free expression

Mr. Unanue faced significant criticism from disgruntled consumers, indignant at the thought of Goya’s CEO expressing support for Trump. Arguing that this support is insulting to many people, they pointed to Trump’s long history of extremely controversial remarks. His nationalistic immigration policies are also a particularly contentious point for many of Goya’s customers with roots in Latin America. Many critics have cited highly emotive issues such as the separation of children from their families and internment of migrants at the southern border of the United States.

However, regardless of what Goya’s customers think, Mr. Unanue has every right to freely express his opinion. It is crucial in a free society that each individual can decide for themselves which political figures or ideologies they wish to associate with, and be able to freely express these preferences. Having opinions that are not widely shared by other members of a community must not mean that individuals can be silenced by the majority.

On the other hand, it could be problematic if the president and his family publicly endorse the Goya brand. The president himself made a statement expressing his fondness for Goya Foods in a tweet. Afterwards, his daughter and special advisor, Ivanka Trump , tweeted a photo of herself with a Goya product. In light of this, serious questions have been asked around the ethics of those in government positions promoting specific private businesses.

Freedom to boycott

An important part of freedom of expression involves individuals assuming responsibility for the opinions they express. As such, those who feel strongly about the comments made by Mr. Unanue also have freedom of expression. They are perfectly entitled to express their discontent by ceasing to support the Goya brand.

When making his statements, Goya’s CEO must have been aware that expressing his opinions on such a polarizing figure would inevitably have some impact on the perception of his business. As such, he would assume the risk of certain customers deciding to boycott his brand.

Consumers have no obligation to support any business. Therefore, each individual is free to choose which brand of products they wish to purchase. It can be expected that many will seek to favor brands who share their values, and refrain from supporting those who don’t.

With his decision to publicly endorse President Trump, Bob Unanue has led many customers away from his business. However, on the flip side, he will perhaps have gained some new customers among the president’s supporters. Either way, he is entitled to express his preferences, just as his customers are entitled to express theirs.

For more content relating to freedom of expression, make sure to check out our cluster page by clicking on the link below.

This piece solely expresses the opinion of the author and not necessarily the organization as a whole. Students For Liberty is committed to facilitating a broad dialogue for liberty, representing a variety of opinions.

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