U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz on Friday said calls for a boycott of Goya Foods because its CEO praised President Donald Trump were an attempt to “silence free speech.” But one year ago, the Texas Republican encouraged people to boycott Nike after the company halted plans to sell shoes featuring the Betsy Ross flag that some say glorifies slavery and racism, according to NPR.
On Thursday, Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue praised president Donald Trump in a ceremony at The White House. Goya bills itself as America’s largest Hispanic-owned food company.
“We’re all truly blessed at the same time to have a leader like President Trump who is a builder, and that’s what my grandfather did,” said Unanue. “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 we pray for our country that we will continue to prosper and to grow.”
That sparked an immediate reaction on Twitter, where hashtags like #BoycottGoya, #GoyaFoods and #Goyaway began trending. Hispanic leaders, including former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and presidential hopeful Julián Castro, responded with anger, noting that the president has villainized and attacked Latinos "for political gain."
“Free speech works both ways. @Goyafoods CEO is free to support a bigoted president who said an American judge can’t do his job because he’s 'Mexican', who treats Puerto Rico like trash, and who tries to deport Dreamers,” Castro tweeted on Friday. “We’re free to leave his products on the shelves. #Goyaway.”
The League of United Latin American Citizens, the nation's oldest and largest Latino civil rights organization, also defended the boycott.
“GOYA is turning its back on our community to appease a President who attacks and demonizes Latinos daily,” said Domingo Garcia, National President of the League of United Latin American Citizens on a statement on Friday. “I will recommend adoption of a national boycott against GOYA Foods unless Mr. Unanue issues a public apology and formal retraction by 5PM EST Saturday.”
But Cruz criticized the backlash.
“Goya is a staple of Cuban food. My grandparents ate Goya black beans twice a day for nearly 90 years. And now the Left is trying to cancel Hispanic culture and silence free speech,” Cruz tweeted on Friday.
Yet Cruz last year said that he wouldn’t buy any more Nike products, after the brand decided to pull the sneaker designed with the the 13-star Betsy Ross flag. This decision came after former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick “expressed the concern to the company that the Betsy Ross flag had been co-opted by groups espousing racist ideologies,” according to The New York Times.
“I love America. I stand for the anthem, respect the flag & honor the men & women who fought to defend our Nation,” Senator Cruz tweeted in July 2019. “I respect Free Speech & I’m exerting mine: until @Nike ends its contempt for those values, I WILL NO LONGER PURCHASE NIKE PRODUCTS. #WalkAwayFromNike RT if you agree.”
Cruz's office did not respond to a request for comment late Friday.
In an interview with Fox News on Friday, Unanue said he visited The White House as part as the unveiling of president Trump’s Hispanic Prosperity Initiative, a public-private initiative to promote education and entrepreneurship within the Hispanic community. He called the boycott a "suppression of speech."
Correction: A previous version of this story misstated Julián Castro's experience in public office. He is a former U.S. Secretary of Housing and Urban Development.