Campbell Soup executive steps down after false tweet stating George Soros planned migrant caravans
Campbell Soup Co. said the company’s former vice president of government affairs has left his role ahead of his planned early-November departure after he tweeted falsely that George Soros’s Open Society Foundations was behind the migrant caravan heading north through Central America.
“@OpenSociety planned and is executing this, including where they defecate,” Kelly Johnston tweeted last Monday, in response to a tweet that includes a photo of the caravan.
A check on Johnston’s Twitter handle on Monday morning shows the account has been taken down.
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In response to the tweet, Open Society Foundations President Patrick Gaspard sent a letter to Campbell Soup’s CPB, +2.86% Chair Les Vinney and Interim Chief Executive Keith McLaughlin saying he was “appalled” that Johnston was “out on social media promoting lies about the organization.”
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Gaspard wrote that the “Open Society Foundations support the historic U.S. commitment to welcoming people fleeing oppression and violence in their home countries,” however, neither the Foundations or Soros are funding the migrant caravans. Moreover, he adds, the group does not support “open borders.”
“It’s not enough to say, as your spokesperson has, that the ‘opinions Mr. Johnston expresses on Twitter are his individual views’ when those ‘views’ add to a toxicity in our communities and contribute to inciting hate and quite possibly violence,” Gaspard wrote.
“Campbell’s has a responsibility to condemn these ‘views’ with the force of the moral suasion your brand has accumulated over decades of patronage from those of us who believe in good corporate citizenship.”
Soros was one of the recipients of the explosive devices that were sent last week to former presidents, media organization CNN, sitting politicians and others. The accused perpetrator, Cesar Altieri Sayoc, is scheduled to appear in federal court on Monday.
Campbell’s McLaughlin replied in a letter last Tuesday saying that the company “regret[s] that this episode happened.”
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“We expect our leaders to present facts, to deal with objective truths and to exercise impeccable judgment,” McLaughlin wrote to Gaspard.
“Unfortunately, our head of government affairs, Mr. Kelly Johnston, made comments on his personal Twitter account on Monday evening that speculate about the involvement of the Open Society organization’s role in the migrant caravan traveling through Mexico. Mr. Johnston’s remarks do not represent the position of Campbell and are inconsistent with how Campbell approaches public debate.”
In a statement from Campbell Soup sent to MarketWatch Monday morning, the company said Johnston has already left the company.
“Mr. Johnston and the company discussed in August that he would transition out of his role with his departure scheduled for early November,” the company said. “In the last few days, the company and Mr. Johnston agreed that under the current circumstances it would be best to accelerate the timing of his departure. He left the Company effective Thursday.”
Campbell Soup is already facing business challenges, with Board Chair Vinney, sending a letter to shareholders asking them to reject efforts from Daniel Loeb’s hedge fund Third Point LLC to “seize control” of the board at the annual meeting scheduled for next month.
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Campbell Soup announced on Aug. 30 that it would divest its non-core brands, including Bolthouse Farms and Garden Fresh Gourmet, as well as its international business in order to drive growth in Campbell Snacks and Campbell Meals and Beverages in North America.
Campbell Soup is in talks to sell its fresh-foods business, according to reporting from The Wall Street Journal earlier this month.
Campbell Soup shares are up 2.8% in Monday trading, but have fallen 21.5% in the last year. The S&P 500 index SPX, +1.27% has gained 4.5% in the last 12 months.
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