Southern grocery store chain Publix is on the defensive against boycott demands from shoppers who are angered that an heiress to the Florida-based business reportedly donated $300,000 to the January 6 rally in Washington, D.C. that occurred before the deadly Capitol riot.
Publix attempted to put distance between the company and Julie Jenkins Fancelli, a Donald Trump mega donor who is one of late founder George W. Jenkins’ seven children. The company aimed to get out in front of the controversy by announcing the heiress is “not an employee” and is “neither involved in our business operations, nor does she represent the company in any way.” The donation blowback prompted wider criticism of corporate money in politics and reminded business owners of the power behind social media-inspired boycott movements.
Publix also described the Capitol attacks as a “national tragedy,” before declining to comment further on Fancelli’s reported donation to organizers with the help of right-wing conspiracy theorist Alex Jones.
But many shoppers in the seven Southern states where Publix stores are located have called for a boycott and said they will no longer patronize the chain that reported $38.1 billion retail sales in 2019. Critics across social media accused Publix of “funding insurrection” and also sparked COVID-19 vaccination concerns because the company is the sole distributor of the vaccine statewide.
“I was an avid Publix shopper, no more. Publix heiress funded $300,000 to the rally in DC on January 6th. Just like yelling fire in a crowded theater for your own amusement is not legal; neither is promoting stand up and fight, trial by combat inflammatory speech #BOYCOTTPUBLIX,” tweeted political author Christopher Zullo.
“I used to spend more than $200 a week. Publix is getting no more money from me. If we all #BOYCOTTPUBLIX they’ll feel it,” tweeted one irate ex-Publix shopper.
Many seemingly morally conflicted Publix shoppers expressed distress about their decision to boycott the store, with countless Florida residents like Yarnista Mary tweeting out why they won’t spend any more money there: “This one hurts but I’m a big proponent of having my money speak for me.”
Calls to boycott Publix were paired with news and memes that centered around Publix’s years of donating to Republican candidates, including a $100,000 December contribution just before GOP Governor Ron DeSantis made the company Florida’s only vaccine distributor.
This is not the first time Publix has been the target of a boycott over political donations. A 2018 Memorial Day weekend “#BoycottPublix” campaign was waged on social media by advocacy groups and Florida residents who were angry about a $670,000 donation to gubernatorial candidate Adam Putnam. Before the GOP candidate lost to current Governor DeSantis in the primary, Putnam was ridiculed for describing himself as “a proud NRA sellout” in the wake of the Parkland, Florida, high school shooting in February of that year.
Last month, Publix made a six-figure contribution to DeSantis and critics said it was only after this move that the grocery chain became the only retail location in Florida to distribute the vaccine.
Some Publix shoppers and even people claiming to be current employees urged people who are angry about Fancelli’s donation to realize it’s not the wealthy heiress who will be hurt by the loss. Many Publix defenders noted it’s one of the country’s largest “employee-owned” companies in the country.
“If you boycott Publix I doubt that George Jenkins’ daughters will really feel any significant effect in their bank accounts from the boycott. And they were the ones who donated the money to Trump, not Publix. The people who will feel the effect are the cashiers, deli workers, truck drivers, butchers, and bakers who you interact with each day,” wrote Jessica Nederveld Weeks in a Sunday Facebook post.
Newsweek reached out to Publix and several Florida stores for additional remarks and reaction Sunday afternoon.