Goya Foods CEO said Trump is ‘the still actual president’ and doubled down on false election claims at CPAC

goya foods robert unanue office
Bob Unanue, president of Goya foods, Inc., poses for a portrait in his office in Secaucus, NJ, on August 15, 2013.

  • Goya Foods CEO: Trump is “the legitimate and the still actual president of the United States.”
  • CNN reported the executive praised Trump during the Conservative Political Action Conference.
  • Goya’s board voted to bar the CEO from talking to the media earlier this year.
  • Visit the Business section of Insider for more stories.

The CEO of Goya Foods said Donald Trump is the “actual” US president nearly six weeks after President Joe Biden’s inauguration. 

Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue spread conspiracy theories about the legitimacy of the 2020 presidential election during the Conservative Political Action Conference on Sunday, per CNN.

“My biggest honor today is gonna be that – I think we’re gonna be on the same stage – as, in my opinion, the real, the legitimate, and the still actual president of the United States, Donald J. Trump,” Unanue said on the conference stage in Orlando, Florida.

Trump lost the election to Biden after losing both the popular vote and the electoral college. Elections experts and international observers found no evidence of election fraud.

CNN reported Unanue spread other lies, including stating Trump received the majority of the votes and that the election was “not legitimate.”

The Goya Foods nine-person board voted to bar Unanue from speaking to media without company permission after the CEO baselessly called the election “unverified” in a January interview with Fox Business.

Unanue comments in support of Trump in 2020 led to backlash and boycott threats on social media. In July, Unanue said, “We are all truly blessed, at the same time, to have a leader like President Trump, who is a builder,” at a White House event.

Goya Foods calls itself the largest Hispanic-owned food producer. Latino politicians including Rep. Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez and presidential candidate Julián Castro criticized Unanue’s comments, reminding their social media followers of Trump’s insults towards Mexican immigrants and other Hispanic groups. 

“Bob Unanue, is praising a president who villainized and maliciously attacks Latinos for political gain,” Castro said on Twitter. “Americans should think twice before buying their products.” 

Unanue’s grandfather founded Goya in 1936. After taking over as the company’s chief executive in 2004, Robert expanded the brand’s availability in regions with growing Latino populations like Florida.

“We’re nimble because we’re family operated and we can make decisions quickly,” Unanue told Hispanic Executive in 2017. “We know who is coming, where they are coming from, and what products will allow us to make a connection with them. It works because we have the infrastructure, quality, and authenticity.”

Goya Foods did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. 

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Goya Foods CEO calls Ocasio-Cortez ’employee of the month’ as sales surge amid Trump-induced backlash – but there is more to the story

aoc goya ceo
On the left, US Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. On the right, Robert Unanue, CEO of Goya Foods.

  • In July, Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue faced backlash from prominent Latinos over his praise of President Trump.
  • Across the country, customers called for a boycott of Goya goods.
  • Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez criticized the company, writing that she would make her own Adobo seasoning, rather than buying Goya’s, on Twitter.
  • Meanwhile, many conservatives across the nation pledged to buy Goya, with Ivanka Trump and the president expressing their support for the brand.
  • On a podcast published Monday, Unanue addressed the backlash, crediting the controversy with a spike in sales.
  • “We never got to hand it to her, but she got employee of the month for bringing attention to Goya and our Adobo,” he said. 
  • Ocasio-Cortez denied formally calling for a boycott and attributed Goya’s increase in sales to pandemic panic-buying, as opposed to the press surrounding Unanue’s controversy. 
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Goya Foods CEO Robert Unanue called Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes “employee of the month” on a podcast Monday and claimed that the congresswoman’s criticism of the brand, following the executive’s positive comments about President Trump, had actually increased sales.

“We never got to hand it to her, but she got employee of the month for bringing attention to Goya and our Adobo,” Unanue said on “The Michael Berry Show” on Monday.

“When she boycotted us, our sales actually increased 1,000%,” Unanue said. “Our Adobo sales did very well after she said ‘make your own Adobo.'”

Ocasio-Cortez addressed the comments on Twitter Tuesday. In her statement, she denied formally leading a boycott and attributed Goya’s increase in sales to pandemic panic-buying, as opposed to the press surrounding Unanue’s controversy. 

There’s some evidence to support her claim. Early in the pandemic, Goya saw sales of canned goods like black and pinto beans quadruple, The New York Times reported. Unanue called the demand “a tsunami,” according to the Times. But while bean sales might be explained by pandemic-buying trends, independent of political motivations, there are fewer alternative explanations for the uptick in sales of Adobo, Goya’s signature spice blend.

Read more: Walmart just revealed a new grocery shopping service that could give it an edge and 900,000 new customers, as at-home cooking soars during the pandemic

The controversy begins

In July, Robert Unanue visited the White House to celebrate a new initiative aimed at improving opportunity for Hispanic Americans. 

“We’re all truly blessed to have a leader like President Trump, who is a builder. And that’s what my grandfather did. He came to the country to grow, to build, to prosper,” Unanue said at a press conference in July. Unanue’s grandfather Don Prudencio Unanue immigrated to the US and started Goya foods in 1936, according to the company. The brand now calls itself the largest Latino-owned business in the US. 

Robert Unanue’s comment sparked backlash from multiple Latino public figures, including Housing Secretary and former presidential candidate Julian Castro, Tony-award-winning playwright and actor Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.

Goya Foods “has been a staple of so many Latino households for generations. Now their CEO, Bob Unanue, is praising a president who villainized and maliciously attacks Latinos for political gain. Americans should think twice before buying their products,” wrote Julian Castro in a tweet.

“Oh look, it’s the sound of me Googling ‘how to make your own Adobo,'” Ocasio-Cortez added.

Meanwhile, multiple prominent conservative public figures rallied behind Goya and pledged to buy it. Fox News personalities, Governor Mike Huckabee, Ivanka Trump, and the president himself came out in support. Sens. Tom Carper and Elizabeth Warren requested an ethics probe following Ivanka Trump’s photo, seeking to determine whether she had violated federal rules.

Shortly following the backlash, Unanue told Fox News that he wasn’t sorry for his positive comment about the president, pointing out that he didn’t receive criticism for working with the Obama administration.

“You’re allowed to… praise one president,” he said. “I was called to be part of this commission to aid educational and economic prosperity… all of a sudden that’s not acceptable.” 

Goya did not immediately respond to Business Insider’s request for comment. 

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