At the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC), we sit down with the owner of GOYA Foods, Robert Unanue, to discuss cancel culture, the boycott and “buy-cott” of GOYA products, and what he sees as the assault on “God, family, and work.”
Jan Jekielek: I’m here with Bob Unanue at CPAC 2021. Bob, you are an owner at Goya Foods, one of the owners. The theme of CPAC 2021, of course, is America Uncancelled. You have experienced some pretty significant cancellation or cancel culture. Tell me about that.
Bob Unanue: It’s great to be here with a lot of like-minded people who believe in God. The cancelling—I said something very horrific when I was at the White House on July 9, 2020. I was there to give away 2 million pounds of food because our company was up and running courageously, all of our people. We never shut down. We had the best year of our life, but I used the word, “blessed.” I said, “We are blessed as a country,” and I said to the president, “to have a president,” because we were blessed to be open and working, and to be able to give back to our country.
That was met with so much fervor, negativity, canceling. I was wondering because the Holy Spirit put that word on my lips, and how could we cancel God? I’ve come to realize that a lot of what we’re doing is canceling God. The cancel culture wants to take God out of everything.
We need a reason to get up in the morning. Goya kept working because we’re an essential business, but all businesses are essential. You need to be able to get up in the morning for God, family, and work. They want to cancel God, they want to close our churches.
They want to redefine the family. They don’t want us to celebrate Thanksgiving together as a family. They don’t want us to celebrate Christmas, Hanukkah, or other celebrations and gatherings as a family. Our work—they want to put us out of work. They don’t want to teach our children. Really, where a lot of the issue is, is with the children because of being so indoctrinated today with negativity.
We don’t need to focus on the science as much as we need to focus on God. Goya stayed open safely and we had our best year. States that opened like Florida, like Texas, like South Dakota, that stayed open didn’t have any more issues than states that were closed. The only difference is, those states like our company staying open, had the best year. They are the ones that excelled in [spite of] this cancel culture.
Mr. Jekielek: Can you tell me what actually happened and what resulted from this cancellation? How did this play out subsequently?
Mr. Unanue: That’s an amazing thing because once I said blessed, that was unacceptable to the far left cancel culture, and there were calls for a boycott. But many people in this country said, “This is not right, we’re going to buy Goya products.” And this tremendous “buy-cott” was formed. The president actually supported our company because of what we were going through. [He] didn’t want [us] to be boycotted. Ivanka Trump held the can of Goya beans.
There was a clamor that a government official can’t support a company. But government officials, AOC or the Castro brothers [Julian and Joaquin Castro], they can call for a boycott? You’re allowed to boycott but you’re not allowed to support—it’s a double standard.
Actually, the buy-cott became very successful, and I received a meme from someone that had AOC as employee of the month because she raised our sales one thousand percent. That wasn’t our number, it was that meme.
So a lot of people got a charge out of that, that a Latina, a Puertorriqueña, would call to close a Latin company and put us out of business because we use the word “blessed.” It’s horrific, and thank God so many good people stood up behind us and said, “No, we’re not going to boycott, we’re going to buy-cott. We’re going to buy Goya products.”
Here, I’ve met so many people that said, “We bought your products for the first time.” We kept our core customers and we got many new customers. So we thank AOC, we thank the Castro brothers, and others, for calling for a boycott.
Mr. Jekielek: You raised a number of interesting issues. One was, let’s call it an attack on faith, I believe. I think that’s one way we can characterize it. The other piece is just how society is dealing with coronavirus, or CCP virus as we call it at The Epoch Times. Presumably, a lot of these measures—and I know that certainly a lot of people believe this—they are to help people, essentially, not to die. Not all these measures, or at least ostensibly on the surface, are meant to cancel anybody. They’re meant to help lives, save lives. What are your thoughts on that?
Mr. Unanue: I got coronavirus before I went to the White House. I’ll be 67-years-old next month. I had a fever, I felt congested in the morning, but I decided to get up and keep moving. I had heard of things like taking aspirin with lemon and tea, and heating it—that’s a blood thinner. Taking Vitamin D3, zinc, and hydroxychloroquine—I guess it’s too cheap of a medicine that for some reason, they didn’t want that to work. Remdesivir, there are other things that had happened.
I was prediabetic, type 2, with hypertension. Before all this happened, the doctor said to me, “We’re going to up your medicine, your Metformin.” I said, “No, I’m not going to go down that route. I’m going to lose weight.” I lost 50 pounds by basically cutting out carbs and I got healthy.
When I got the virus, I kept moving. I think the worst thing you can do is to stop moving. It’s like a cement truck, you stop that barrel and it solidifies it around your chest. I kept moving, I lost the weight, I got healthy. Besides being healthy, our company kept working. We kept working safely. By staying open, we didn’t have any more sickness or ills than those who stayed home and closed. To close down our society, our economy, is catastrophic.
We stayed open, and we were able to give back. We were able to have the best year of our history. That’s what President Trump wanted to do. He wanted to keep the economy going, he didn’t want to close it down. If we had closed down, if the economy had closed down, forget about coronavirus—we would be dead.
Luckily there were enough businesses open to support us, those that make our cans, our bottles, our labels, our cartons, our beans, our food products, as well as the farmers. Every part of the economy, enough of it was functioning that we could survive. We had to keep the economy going. The states that did, Florida, Texas, South Dakota, to name a few, they’ve done very well. In the meantime, we figured out the science, but if we had closed while they figured it out, I don’t know where we’ll be.
Mr. Jekielek: What measures were you able to take for Goya Foods, or presumably, your CEO and your management, what measures did they take to protect the workers and to protect the management?
Mr. Unanue: From the beginning, social distancing, cleansing, masks—as soon as we could get them because they weren’t available right away. If you’re Apple [staff] and you work from your home and on a computer, that’s great—but we can’t farm, we can’t manufacture virtually. So we did social distancing and cleanliness.
Of course, we’re in the food factory in some of our locations. We’re all over the U.S. and around the world. We followed the regulations which weren’t really established, but we took the worst case scenario, the most rigid. [If] we had any cases, we had to notify the government and Department of Health, etc. We just did the best we could.
Mr. Jekielek: Let’s talk a little bit about what you described as the canceling of faith, or an assault on faith in America. This word “blessed” is what a lot of people reacted to. What do you think is happening in a more general sense here?
Mr. Unanue: Some call for the pledge of allegiance to say, “One Nation Indivisible.” What do they take out? “Under God.” We can’t be indivisible or united unless we’re under God. If we don’t unite under God, what are we going to unite under? God stands for love and unity and brotherhood. As far as taking God out, the first thing they did was close the churches, you can’t worship. And the synagogues, you can’t worship. They kept other things open.
As a commissioner, I went to Las Vegas, and the only things open were these big places where you can do drugs and other things. The restaurants were closed, the hotels were closed. I think it’s close to 15 million people working in the restaurant business that were put out of work, and yet, we as an essential business can continue. Most of those 15 million people in the restaurant business are minorities—Hispanic, African American, all ethnicities. So it’s a direct assault on the middle class, on the working class—a direct assault.
As a culture, as human beings, we’re meant to be together. By saying, you can’t celebrate Thanksgiving together, Christmas, Hanukkah, that’s how they attack the family. You can’t be a family [when] you can’t gather. We’re meant to gather as a human race and educate. They want to take away our work and take away our reason for being.
In the Bible, there The Parable of the Talents that we’re given these talents [a type of coin] to produce. If you’ve taken away our ability to produce, build things, I’ve heard people say—I don’t know where the saying comes from—there are those who are born to love and build and unite, and others to hate, destroy, and divide. We need to choose loving, building, uniting.
During World War II with Hitler, they built up a hatred of the Jewish people that made it acceptable to hate. Today, they’re building up hatred against anybody who maybe supported President Trump or thinks differently than this cancel culture. Now it’s acceptable to hate them, to put labels on those people as racist, white supremacist or whatever. That has to stop. We cannot accept that.
Mr. Jekielek: Any final thoughts before we finish up?
Mr. Unanue: Believe it or not, I was talking to a gentleman and I asked him, “What do you think is going to happen around the election?” He said, “God spoke to me.” I said, “OK, God spoke to you. What did he say, or what did she say?” He said, “The U.S. isn’t ready. We need to suffer more.” I said, “Wow! And why is that?” “We need to suffer to realize to what level of division and hatred we can go to, so that people can realize that we’re heading down the wrong path.”
It was predicted that President Trump would bring this nation closer to God. Maybe by all this happening and seeing what is upon us right now, it’ll unite this country together and reject a culture of hatred and division and foment a culture of love and building.
Mr. Jekielek: Bob Unanue, it’s such a pleasure to have you on.
Mr. Unanue: It’s a pleasure to be here. You are the voice. We need to have that positive and faith-filled voice, and hope for our future.
Mr. Jekielek: I appreciate that.
Mr. Unanue: Thank you.
This interview has been edited for clarity and brevity.