With a single tweet on Thursday, President-elect Donald J. Trump pulled Maine-based boots and jackets retailer L.L. Bean back into a political crossfire, The New York Times reports.
The company was already facing a boycott from liberal customers after reports that Linda Bean, a granddaughter of the company’s founder, had donated thousands of dollars to a political action committee that supported Trump’s presidential campaign. The donations turned out to be illegal.
With a bitter partisan divide piercing the nation, the tweet underscores the danger brands face when they are caught in the political crosshairs because of campaign donations or partisan statements made by their founders or board members.
In the case of L.L. Bean, Grab Your Wallet, a group that opposes Trump, added the company to its list of retailers to boycott. Company executives pleaded with the critics to reconsider. Shawn Gorman, L.L. Bean’s executive chairman, even declared on Sunday that “we stay out of politics.” But then Trump offered a full-throated endorsement of the company on Thursday, a rare and highly unusual step for someone elected to the nation’s highest office. In a tweet, Trump thanked Linda Bean and urged Americans to buy L.L. Bean products. The tweet also links to an account for Linda Bean’s Maine lobster business.
Some social media users called the endorsement inappropriate, and others vowed to get rid of their L.L. Bean gear.
Gorman responded to the recent calls for a boycott by saying that L.L. Bean does not endorse political candidates, make political contributions or support any political agenda, and he described Linda Bean’s contributions as her personal decision.
“Like most large families, the more than 50 family member-owners of the business hold views and embrace causes across the political spectrum, just as our employees and customers do. And as every member of the family would agree, no individual alone speaks on behalf of the business or represents the values of the company that L. L. built,” Mr. Gorman said in a statement posted on Facebook.