A Republican Senator Threatened to Punish a Company for Speech, But the Press Didn't Care
To keep the narrative of "cancel culture" being a left-wing phenomenon alive, the press just ignore when the right do it.
On July 9, 2020, then-President Donald Trump held an event at the White House Rose Garden as part of his administration's Hispanic Prosperity Initiative. Among the guests was Robert Unanue, CEO of Goya Foods. And while these events are usually pretty yawn-worthy for how commonplace they are across administrations — business leaders show up, shake hands, and say a few friendly words in hopes that it helps their business — Unanue made headlines for the way he heaped praise on Trump (usually, there's a bit of an effort on the part of the CEOs in attendance to avoid coming off as particularly partisan), going so far as to say that the country was "blessed to have a leader" like Trump. A bit much, but nothing too earth-shattering.
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Responding to Unanue's comment, gun control advocate Igor Volsky tweeted, "The CEO of @GoyaFoods is at a White House event saying we're 'blessed to have a leader' like Trump. Make your shopping decisions accordingly." This, of course, is precisely why CEOs try to thread the needle of not turning away the free positive publicity that comes with attending an official White House event and not alienating customers who may not support the current president. It's a risk Unanue was willing to take.
Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), responded to Volsky's tweet, writing, "Oh look, it's the sound of me Googling 'how to make your own Adobo.'"
She followed that up with an adobo recipe that was sent her way.
In the days that followed, the press freaked out over the "boycott" that Ocasio-Cortez had supposedly launched (you'll notice that she didn't actually call for a boycott! She just hinted that she wasn't going to buy Goya products anymore). The New York Times wrote that Ocasio-Cortez was "among those angered by Mr. Unanue's comments," a bizarre bit of editorializing and mind-reading that the Times has repeatedly argued that it tries to avoid (see: any of the many examples of Times journalists twisting themselves in knots to avoid using the word "lie" to refer to Republican lies).
Unanue responded to this by going on a right-wing media tour to complain that his critics were trying to suppress his speech (false), multiple members of the Trump family posted bizarre endorsements of Goya products (perhaps illegally), and a bunch of conservatives rushed to defend Goya from "cancel culture."
During a December 2020 radio interview, Unanue called Ocasio-Cortez the company's "employee of the month."
"When she boycotted us, our sales actually increased 1,000%," he said at the time, though, again, Ocasio-Cortez did not actually call for a boycott of the company. “She got employee of the month for bringing attention to Goya and our adobo.” (Goya's sales figures are not public, so it's hard to tell if what he said was accurate.)
In January 2021, Goya's board of directors censured Unanue after he appeared on Fox Business to declare that the election was stolen and that "there is a war coming." Setting aside how deranged the comments themselves were, CEOs generally try to avoid making such bizarre and blatant political messages.
Anyway! I bring this ancient history up for a very simple reason! His name is Tom Cotton, and he is a United States Senator.
You may know him as the world’s first human-giraffe hybrid (edit note: someone in the comments pointed out that this was unnecessary and mean, and that’s a fair point. I’ll leave it in this reference but will be more mindful in future posts) to be elected to the U.S. Senate or as the Republican who thought the military should be called in to murder protesters during the summer of 2020. He’s also a guy who responded to news that General Motors was putting a hold on its Twitter advertising following the company’s acquisition by right-wing cringelord Elon Musk by tweeting a very cryptic threat!
So here’s where I planned to post links to news stories that addressed Cotton’s “cancel culture.” Unfortunately… I wasn’t able to find any. Not a single one! In fact, it seems like there just weren’t really any articles at all about his veiled threat to retaliate against GM if it didn't agree to continue to advertise on a far-right site. None. That’s because the “cancel culture” narrative, which is used to argue that the left is “illiberal,” is complete and total BS. See, the right loves “cancel culture.” The right loves to restrict speech.
While mainstream political journalists are busy practicing writing “Mr. Chris Cillizza-DeSantis” with hearts dotting the “i”s and dreamily staring off into the distance like lovestruck teenage girls, DeSantis has been carrying out a wildly anti-speech agenda that has involved penalizing the Tampa Bay Rays because he didn’t like tweets that the team sent, trying to shake down Disney in a (sadly, successful) effort to get them to shut up about his anti-LGBTQ policies, micromanaging mask policies within private businesses, and signing laws that outright restrict speech that doesn’t advance his fascist agenda. Still, as the completely ignored Cotton tweet shows, the “the left is all about cancel culture and hates free speech” narrative is a big, steaming pile of BS. I cannot and will not take “cancel culture” arguments seriously until the press starts acknowledging that the bulk of it is happening on the right.