Chobani yogurt CEO Hamdi Ulukaya's pro-immigration stance made him the target of racist attacks and death threats from supporters of former president Donald Trump in 2016.
Five years later, Ulukaya has come under fire — and is facing calls for a boycott of his company's products — after participating in a food drive last week with Ivanka Trump, the former president's daughter who served as a White House adviser.
After Ivanka Trump posted "stylized photos" from the food drive on social media, she was accused of trying to rehab her image by "pretending to be a good person."
On Thursday, the San Jose Mercury News reported that the fallout has since engulfed Ulukaya.
According to the newspaper, critics "wonder how Ulukaya knows Ivanka Trump or why he’d publicly associate with her, given his own sterling reputation as a socially responsible business leader and humanitarian who advocates that business leaders be ethical, accountable and care about their communities."
"Moreover, the self-made billionaire is a Turkish immigrant whose company has proudly employed resettled refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan, Turkey, and other countries to work in its factories in upstate New York and Idaho," the newspaper reported. "Mobilized by the anti-immigration rhetoric that propelled Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign, calls to '#BoycottChobani' erupted on right-leaning Twitter and Facebook accounts. Conspiracy theorist Alex Jones falsely accused Chobani of 'importing migrant rapists,' while Breitbart, co-founded by Trump’s White House counselor Steve Bannon, suggested that the company was fueling a 'Muslim refugee crisis.'"
Ulukaya even filed a lawsuit over the defamatory attacks and went on to speak out publicly against Trump's Muslim travel ban.
"More than five years later, some Chobani customers said on social media that they might stop buying the company’s yogurt, creamers and other products because of Ulukaya’s apparent collaboration with Ivanka Trump. To them, such a partnership runs counter to all Ulukaya stands for," the Mercury News reported. "Media representatives for Chobani did not respond to questions about whether Ulukaya and Ivanka Trump are friends, how they know each other and whether they are indeed collaborating on any projects, including on programs to distribute food to needy families."
The newspaper noted that the controversy is being fueled in part by new developments this week.
On Tuesday, the New York attorney general's office implicated Ivanka Trump in allegedly fraudulent activity by her father's company. And on Thursday, the House Select Committee investigating the Captiol insurrection sent a letter to Ivanka Trump requesting her cooperation.
More from Twitter below.
WTF Chobani?!! You didn\u2019t need to partner with scum to do a good deed. Ugh https://nypost.com/2022/01/15/ivanka-trump-and-chobani-founder-launch-food-drives-in-ny/?utm_source=twitter_sitebuttons&utm_medium=site%20buttons&utm_campaign=site%20buttons\u00a0\u2026— S.P. (I got the shot! x3) \u270c\ud83c\udffc (@S.P. (I got the shot! x3) \u270c\ud83c\udffc) 1642550218
You can't post about MLK the day after you throw down with the daughter of an avowed racist. You just can't. #ivankapatriots— GREG MAROTTA (@GREG MAROTTA) 1642469257
How does this message synch with teaming up with a senior member of an openly racist and Islamophobic administration (looking to launder her image)?— Margie Gunderson (@Margie Gunderson) 1642615641
Never, ever again will our family buy any of your products. Allowing these corrupt people to exploit your reputable brand for personal gain is unconscionable https://t.co/u01QWsyhZK
— Lula Rodriguez (@Lananalula) January 19, 2022
But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing.— Matthew 6:3
P.S. @Chobani CEO is part of rehabbing her image. Looks like I’ll be eating another yogurt brand. The grifter stench will never wear off Ivanka & her treasonous complicity. https://t.co/glKR75Fy1W
— Molly Cantrell-Kraig 💉💉💉😷 (@mckra1g) January 19, 2022
Is this a joke?
Did @Chobani just align themselves w/ one of the most despicable names since (Benedict)Arnold.
With someone that wasn’t just a bystander in the destructive force that has divided our country. That literally called insurrectionists patriots
— Wilber Basquiat’s ghost🇺🇸 (@GhostWilber) January 18, 2022
Ironic since Chobani was founded by an immigrant who hires refugees and immigrants to get them started, while Ivanka hates immigrants, refugees, and poor people. But does she ever love a photo opp.— JO (@JO) 1642465392
On Thursday, former Trump Homeland Security adviser Olivia Troye reacted to the new documents released by the House January 6 Committee, revealing that Fox News host Sean Hannity privately told then-White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany that Trump could be impeached over the insurrection, had to stop lying about the election, and needed to be kept away from "crazy people."
"We should note that Sean Hannity's show was a major place where these election lies were told. In fact, they're being sued as a result," said anchor Jake Tapper. "And Kayleigh McEnany is one of the biggest election liars that we know. So what's your reaction when you see this conversation, this private conversation?"
"Well, it's stunning," said Troye, one of several Trump administration alumni speaking out against the former president. "It's stunning to see this full on evidence of these types of conversations that were happening in the lead up to January 6th, but even more so just the fact that they knew the gravity of the situation, they knew the repercussions of the possibility of what would happen and continuing down this narrative and then even more egregious is that now they've doubled down on it. Right? And the problem is, not only does this narrative still exist out there, the Big Lie lives on, it's being used by a people who are seeking public office this year. It's become sort of, the Republican Party's platform is really the Big Lie and you have to support it or you're going to get kicked out."
"I think it is important to get this evidence out there to the American people so that they can see that in the lead up in that situation, with Donald Trump, people knew," added Troye. "People knew that this type of action was worthy of impeachment. It was worthy of the 25th Amendment. That these are actual discussions happening with people like Sean Hannity."
Olivia Troye calls Sean Hannity January 6 revelations "stunning" www.youtube.com
Remember: With Republicans, every accusation is a confession.
Nowhere is that more true than in the discourse around fair elections and voting rights, both of which Republicans stand firmly against. On Wednesday, Senate Democrats attempted to pass a bill that would both protect voting rights and strengthen elections against blatant Republican sabotage. In response, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., lied and said that Democrats don't care about "securing citizens' rights," but just "about expanding politicians' power."
The opposite is true, however. It's Republicans who are swiftly dismantling the right to vote, in the name of preserving their own power. As such, the party has been passing state-level voting restrictions targeting people of color, redrawing district maps to marginalize minority populations, and running unmistakeably racist purges of election offices. So President Joe Biden was right to ask, in a speech in Atlanta last week, "Do you want to be the side of Dr. King or George Wallace? Do you want to be on the side of John Lewis or Bull Connor? Do you want to be on the side of Abraham Lincoln or Jefferson Davis?"
Republicans made their choice Wednesday, using their filibuster power — which is shamefully being protected by two turncoat Democrats, Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona — to block the passage of the Senate voting rights bill. Some Republicans are no doubt personally racist, in full agreement with Donald Trump's repeated insistence that racially diverse voters in cities like Philadelphia and Detroit are "frauds". Some are just worried about their own power, which they know is threatened in all Americans, regardless of race or ethnicity, have equal rights to the ballot box. Either way, the use of the filibuster — in line with its history — was leveraged by Republicans as a tool of white supremacy.
The obvious people to blame for this gross behavior are Republicans themselves. But what's the fun in that? So, instead, far too many in the media are letting Republicans off the hook and instead fixing the blame on Democrats for somehow not doing more to make Republicans less evil.
In the hours before Republicans killed this crucial democracy protection legislation, Biden held a marathon press conference, talking about a wide range of topics from COVID-19 to Russian/Ukraine tensions. But on the mind of many reporters was one burning question: Why wasn't Biden doing more to stop Republicans from being racist? ABC reporter Mary Bruce kicked off this line of inquiry, claiming, ridiculously, that Republicans "may be open to major changes on voting rights" and complaining that Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, "says he never even received a phone call from this White House."
Romney released this bait to the press over the weekend, correctly assessing that it would be filtered through the mainstream media assumption that Democrats are the only politicians who possess autonomy. And sure enough, as the press conference demonstrated, Biden was being blamed for not "reaching out," while Romney is not being asked why he needs to be cajoled to take a very basic stand for the right of all Americans to vote.
This idiotic assumption — that Democrats are responsible for GOP racism, but not Republicans themselves — only got uglier as the press conference went on.
At least two reporters parroted feigned Republican outrage over Biden's comments about George Wallace and Bull Connor at Biden. NBC News reporter Kristen Welker noted that Biden has made his inauguration speech about "bringing people together," before confronting him about the people who "took exception" to last week's comparison of voting rights opponents of today to George Wallace and Bull Connor. Shortly after, Philip Wegmann of RealClearPolitics asked a similar question, implying that the blame for the conflict over voting rights lay not with Republicans passing racist laws, but Democrats for being too blunt in their opposition.
Implicit in such lines of questioning is an assumption — beloved by the right — that to be called out for racism is far worse than actually being racist. Biden is being accused of being divisive for drawing a clear and accurate line between voter suppression of yesteryear and today. But Republicans don't face similarly harsh questions about their opposition to voting rights, or why they think it's acceptable to systematically target people of color for disenfranchisement. Biden is asked why he didn't somehow persuade Romney to support voting rights, but Romney isn't asked why he needs such persuasion, or why his own supposed morality doesn't drive him to stand up for basic human rights.
This idiocy began even before Biden's press conference Wednesday. Over the weekend, Chuck Todd of NBC accused Biden of failing "to build a small coalition of governing Republicans," rather than asking why Republicans are so relentlessly obstructionist. And in his preview piece of the failed voting rights Senate vote, New York Times political reporter Jonathan Weisman implied that Republican votes were somehow gettable, but "Democratic activists have spent far more time and energy trying to break the will of Mr. Manchin and Ms. Sinema on the filibuster than they have working to win over Republicans on the actual legislation."
The layers of irony here are heavy to the point of being debilitating because the usual media excuse for not holding Republicans' feet to the fire over such questions is that it is pointless to do so. As Greg Sargent at the Washington Post writes, because GOP opposition to voting rights "is a foregone conclusion, Republicans are too rarely asked by reporters to justify it." Instead, reporters treat Republican attitudes about this issue as "natural, unalterable, indelibly baked-in." But only, critically, when it comes to reporters themselves refusing to hold Republicans accountable. When the topic shifts away from media responsibility to the responsibility of Democrats and activists to somehow change GOP minds, suddenly the assumptions change. No longer are Republicans viewed as resolute in their opposition to the point where it's useless to talk to them about it. All of a sudden, Republicans are recast as soft targets who are one friendly lunch or flattering phone call away from dropping their stubborn opposition to basic democratic protections.
Biden was castigated in some media corners for showing a flash of anger over the repeated questions about why he wasn't nicer to Republicans who are trying to decimate voting rights. But it's honestly surprising he held back as much as he did. Wednesday's press conference was a perfect illustration of the deeply unfair double standard the press holds itself to, where reporters aren't expected to press Republicans about their opposition to voting rights, but Democrats are supposed to wave a magic wand and make Republicans act like decent human beings. This dereliction of both duty and common sense is annoying at the best of times, but right now, the vapidity is morally indefensible.
As media critic Margaret Sullivan noted in the Washington Post recently, "That American democracy is teetering is unquestionable," and yet much of the press is "afraid to stand for something as basic to our mission as voting rights, governmental checks and balances, and democratic standards." Instead, the coverage all too often resorts to the typical-but-misleading bothesiderism the D.C. press loves, in which Biden's blunt characterization of Republican opposition to voting rights is regarded as equally bad — or sometimes worse — than the actual fact that Republicans are trying to take away the basic right to vote.