President Trump on Tuesday night came to the defense of Home Depot, calling those who choose not to shop at the home improvement retailer because of financial ties between its billionaire co-founder, Bernard Marcus, and his presidential campaign “vicious and totally crazed.”
He painted Marcus, 90, as a victim of left-wing Democrats wielding “one of their often used weapons.”
If boycotting is a tactic favored by the left, it is a predilection shared by Trump. In his time as president and as a private person, he has repeatedly advised consumers to shun brands he says have slighted him personally, interfered with his agenda or harmed the national interest.
Among the companies he has targeted are Macy’s, which once carried his clothing line but abandoned him after he called Mexicans “rapists” in his campaign kickoff speech in 2015, and Apple, which he urged to release the cellphone information of the perpetrators of the 2015 shooting in San Bernardino, Calif. Last year, he celebrated plans to boycott Harley-Davidson when the motorcycle company said it would move some production overseas because of steel tariffs imposed by the president.
“I hope the boycott of @Macys continues forever,” Trump wrote in July 2015. “So many people are cutting up their cards. Macy’s stores suck and they are bad for U.S.A.”
Trump’s criticisms of Harley-Davidson and AT&T were especially notable because they was voiced while he was president rather than a private individual, thereby appearing to leverage the powers of his office against private companies.
He struck a different tone on Tuesday, saying it was unfair to penalize a company because one of its co-founders supported “your favorite President, me!”
Marcus, who retired as Home Depot’s chairman in 2002, said in a recent interview with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that he planned to support the president’s reelection bid, after helping to bankroll his 2016 campaign, contributing more than $7 million, according to the Center for Responsive Politics.
The spotlight cast on Marcus and his political inclinations led to a call to boycott the company he co-founded in 1978, which operates more than 2,000 locations and takes in about $108 billion in annual sales. Consumers announced their dissatisfaction on social media with the rallying cry #BoycottHomeDepot.
“Not a carpet, or a washer, or a mousetrap from Home Depot. Not a dime of my money will go directly to re-electing the worst president ever,” one user wrote.
Trump had harsh words for these former customers, while he hailed Marcus as “truly great” and “patriotic.”
Although he attacked those “using Commerce to hurt their ‘Enemy,’” Trump also seemed to acknowledge that he was not above such tactics, warning that “two can play that game.”
It was the kind of tit-for-tat rhetoric that regularly marks his Twitter fusillades, which announce his entrance into divisive cultural battles. The president has argued that Nike and the NFL would encounter “anger and boycotts” as long as they support players who kneel during the national anthem to protest police brutality and racial injustice.
Nike shares rose this month after it pulled shoes featuring a 13-star American flag — which some see as associated with slaveholding in the early Republic — following a complaint from Colin Kaepernick. Many Republicans lambasted that decision. Laura Ingraham, the Fox News host, vowed that her family would buy Nike sneakers “No more.”
The exercise of consumer choice was cast in a different light when it targeted someone friendly to the president.
Trump wasn’t the only Republican to take issue with the boycott of Home Depot. Among other dust-ups exposing deep divisions over race, law enforcement and, of course, the 45th president, the debate over where to buy home improvement supplies led Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida to ask, “Has everyone gone crazy?”
Meanwhile, a Home Depot spokesman told MarketWatch that Marcus, who retired from the company 17 years ago, was not speaking on its behalf when he touted Trump’s record.
“In fact, as a standard practice, the company does not endorse presidential candidates,” the spokesman said.
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