Yogurt-maker Chobani faces racist death threats
NEW YORKHamdi Ulukaya, the Turkey-born founding owner of leading U.S. yogurt maker Chobani, has been facing threats and a smear campaign from the far right for employing migrants, prompting anti-racist activists to launch a counter campaign.
Breitbart News, a news portal that backs Donald Trump in the presidential election race, claimed that Ulukaya received support for a new facility in the city of Twin Falls in Idaho and that he was a supporter of Democratic candidate Hilary Clinton.
In a series of reports, the website also claimed that Chobani’s yogurt was contaminated and that tuberculosis was on the rise because of “Muslim migrants” working at the company.
Some 300 migrants, mostly Turks, Afghans and Iraqis, work at Chobani, which employs 2,000.
Ulukaya has been the subject of similar smear campaigns in other rightist outlets and the target of hate speech and threats on social media.
“Be sure you boycott Chobani Yogurt! That Muzzie that owns it is hell bent on filling Idaho with Muslims,” said one Twitter user.
“Hillary Clinton identified Breitbart as the Democratic Party’s media enemy No. 1, warning about a ‘de facto merger’ between the Trump campaign and a news outlet that she described as racist, radical and offensive,” the New York Times said in a related article.
“The rise of Breitbart News, founded a decade ago by the provocateur Andrew Breitbart, who died in 2012, is an unlikely outcome for a small, decentralized news outlet with a penchant for infighting. But it remains an outsize source of controversy – for liberals and even many traditional conservatives – over material that has been called misogynist, xenophobic and racist,” it said.
“The criticism has included death threats, and is driven primarily by members of the extreme right, who have latched onto Chobani’s business practices as an election issue – even though Ulukaya has actually employed refugees for about five years,” NBC News said on its website.
Anti-racists have also launched a campaign to promote sales of Chobani.
“We love @Chobani for supporting refugees, treating employees fairly, and oh yeah - it’s delicious, too!” said a tweet by the New York City mayor’s office.
“CEO @HamdiUlukaya has been a model for employing refugees, so alt-right hates him,” said Kenneth Roth, the executive director of Human Rights Watch, who was also interviewed by the New York Times on the issue.
Twin Falls Mayor Shawn Barigar has voiced his support for Chobani, despite having received death threats himself, NBC News said.
The Erzincan-born Ulukaya went to the U.S. from Turkey in the 1990s to learn English before he founded the yogurt business.
Chobani announced last month that it would give six weeks of 100 percent paid parental leave to both mothers and fathers.
In April, Ulukaya said he was giving employees a 10 percent stake in the company when it goes public or is sold.
The 2,000 full-time employees of Chobani were handed an ownership stake in the yogurt company that could make some of them millionaires, the New York Times reported April 26.
In 2015, Ulukaya was granted a humanitarian award by the American Turkish Society (ATS) for his personal efforts to relieve the suffering of Syrian refugees.
Ulukaya donated $2 million for refugees who had to leave their country amid rising violence in 2014.