By Jack Phillips
Unilever stock lost about $2 billion in market capitalization amid calls to boycott Ben & Jerry’s ice cream after the company posted a Fourth of July message saying the United States should hand Mount Rushmore over to Native Americans.
Shares of Unilever, the Anglo-Dutch multinational company, dropped about 0.5 percent on Friday, 0.8 percent on Thursday, and 0.5 the previous day. It’s not clear if the drop was due to the calls to boycott Ben & Jerry’s, which has been owned by Unilever since 2000.
It all started when the Vermont-based ice cream company wrote that “this 4th of July, it’s high time we recognize that the US exists on stolen Indigenous land and commit to returning it,” before it posted a link to a blog post asserting that the United States hand back the famed national monument with four presidents to native tribal assets.
“The faces on Mount Rushmore are the faces of men who actively worked to destroy Indigenous cultures and ways of life, to deny Indigenous people their basic rights,” the post alleged.
A number of people on the platform, including prominent conservatives, called for a boycott.
“Make @benndjerrys Bud Light again,” country singer-songwriter John Rich wrote in response, responding to the several-week-long boycott targeting Bud Light that has seen the beer company’s year-over-year sales plummet. While Bud Light didn’t attack the founding of the United States, the company was panned for producing a can of beer with transgender influencer Dylan Mulvaney’s face on it.
“Long overdue for the Bud Light treatment. You hate the country, fine. We won’t buy your product. All good,” another wrote in response. “When is Ben & Jerry’s giving up their land?” Jenna Ellis, a former attorney to President Donald Trump, wrote on Twitter.
Several newspapers like the New York Post and Washington Examiner, too, called for a consumer-led boycott after the Twitter post.
“The brand backed bad-joke Occupy Wall Street, for crying out loud; it aligns with the anti-Israel BDS movement. Co-founder Ben Cohen funds groups opposed to US military aid to Ukraine,” the NY Post’s editorial wrote before calling for a boycott of the ice cream company. “Remember, America, you don’t have to accept woke preening from corporate elites. Speak up—with your wallets,” it said.
The Examiner said, “It may be fun to imagine, but, of course, Ben & Jerry’s will never actually give back the land its corporate office sits on. It will simply exert pressure on others to give up their land.”
It’s now Americans’ “job to try and turn the tide” against the company, the paper said.
Meanwhile, one Native American tribal chief, Don Stevens, told the New York Post in an interview on Friday that he “looks forward to any kind of correspondence with [Ben & Jerry’s] to see how they can better benefit Indigenous people.” If Ben & Jerry’s is “sincere,” the company should hand over its Vermont properties to the Coosuk Abenaki Nation.
“If you look at the Abenaki traditional way of being, we are place-based people. Before recognized tribes in the state, we were the ones who were in this place,” Stevens said, claiming that the Abenaki see themselves as “stewards of the land.”
The company, however, is no stranger to controversy and boycott calls. Over the years, the founders of Ben & Jerry’s have taken left-wing or anti-U.S. stances, and have also often been critical of American foreign policy efforts, including Washington’s decision to provide military aid to Ukraine in the war against Russia.
Years ago, some called for a Ben & Jerry’s boycott after it refused to sell its ice cream in Israel’s West Bank and Gaza Strip, alleging those areas are being occupied by Israel.
In June, Ben & Jerry’s announced it wouldn’t pay to advertise on Twitter and claimed that “hate speech” is on the rise across the platform since Elon Musk purchased the company last year. In a blog post weeks ago, the company wrote that changes at Twitter are causing it “great concern” and that “hate speech is up dramatically while content moderation has become all but non-existent.”
And in March, company co-founder Ben Cohen spoke out about the U.S. government providing military assistance to Ukraine, saying that the United States should instead try to negotiate an end to the war.
“I think the U.S. should use its power to negotiate an end to the war, not prolong the death and destruction by supplying more weapons,” Mr. Cohen told the Daily Beast in March.
Mr. Cohen was arrested Thursday by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) police for blocking an entrance to the Department of Justice (DOJ) building in Washington as he was demonstrating against the detainment of WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange, who has been held in custody for years. A photo showed Cohen holding a sign with the words, “free Assange,” on them before he was arrested.