Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz says the US presidential election has turned into a “circus” and he has “grave concern” about the country’s future.
“I think it’s turned into something none of us has ever seen before, which I would label as almost a circus of yelling bombastic attacks, of a lack of respect, of a lack of dignity,” Schultz told employees at a forum last week in Nevada, Fortune’s Phil Wahba reports. “We are talking about the highest office in the land and the most powerful person in the world.”
Schultz isn’t known to be shy about his political views.
Rumours surfaced last year that he was considering a campaign for the White House. He put an end to the speculation with an op-ed in the New York Times last August announcing that he wouldn’t run.
Schultz had landed in hot water earlier in the year after he encouraged baristas to talk about race relations with customers and write “race together” on the coffee chain’s cups.
The campaign suffered a public backlash from the start, with critics accusing the company of using racial tension to sell coffee. The vitriol was so strong that it caused a senior Starbucks executive to temporarily suspend his Twitter account.
The company eventually abandoned the campaign.
Schultz acknowledged his critics in his remarks to employees last week, saying, “I have been criticised because people say ‘Well role is to create shareholder value and profits, not to use Starbucks as a political tool.'”
But he said he can’t sit quiet through this election.
“I worry if we just continue on this track and don’t speak up,” he said. “I’m asking myself what can we do, given our scale… to effect change, to elecate the discourse, and to demonstrate that this is not the way the country should be run.”
Schultz supported President Obama in the 2012 election but he hasn’t endorsed a candidate in the 2016 election.
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