WASHINGTON – Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz was the featured guest at a CNN town hall on Tuesday in an appearance that is drawing more criticism from liberals who say the potential 2020 presidential candidate has not justified an independent bid they fear could result in President Donald Trump’s re-election.
Schultz drew ire and mockery on social media for many of his responses to the questions, which were long on political cliches but short on specifics.
In particular, Schultz was the target of taunting tweets for his statement that he doesn’t “see color” in response to a question about an April 2018 racial profiling incident that occurred at a Philadelphia Starbucks.
“As somebody who grew up in a very diverse background as a young boy in the projects, I didn’t see color as a young boy and I honestly don’t see color now,” Schultz said.
For Howard Schultz to deny the existence of color is to deny racism itself. Every social indicator reflects a persistent chasm between blacks and whites in their access to jobs, health care, education, housing and wealth, and in their treatment by the criminal justice system. https://t.co/zDgFABHlbQ
— Keith Boykin (@keithboykin) February 13, 2019
That’s funny, because as a black person, I no longer see Howard Schultz.
— Corey Richardson (@vexedinthecity) February 13, 2019
On behalf of all white ppl I apologize for Howard Schultz
— Xeni Jardin (@xeni) February 13, 2019
Does he realize that “I don’t see color” was a “The Colbert Report” running gag?
— brad heinauer (@bradheinauer) February 13, 2019
Wait, isn’t this a word for word Michael Scott line?
— Ben Jacobs (@Bencjacobs) February 13, 2019
That’s like page two of the old white guy manual.
— Roy Bragg (@roybragg) February 13, 2019
Ironic that someone who consumes that much caffeine is so unwoke.
— Jeremy Dietz 🦉 (@ratingsjedi) February 13, 2019
Most of the critics ignored the rest of Schultz’s response, in which he said, “Injustice in America of any kind – especially racial injustice, which continues – is not something that we should be proud of and we need to resolve.”
He said that Starbucks “learned a great deal” from the Philadelphia incident. Schultz retired as chairman a couple months after the incident.
“We realized that we had a problem. And it’s a problem that I think exists widely in this country, and it’s something that I would characterize as unconscious bias that many of us have, based on our own life experience,” he said.
On other issues, Schultz was slammed for being too vague.
Schultz said “I should be paying more” but refused to give a ballpark idea of much more. He would only say that 70 percent was “punitive” and that he thinks it would be more than a 2 percent increase.
On whether he will sell his roughly $2 billion in Starbucks stock if elected:
“I will do nothing whatsoever to have any conflict of interest between my investments overall or my interest in the company that I love,” he said. “There are multiple ways to do this, to set up a blind trust, to do lots of things to remove any conflict of interest. ”
On the Department of Veterans Affairs:
“What I would do to fix it, first off, is diagnose the problem,” he said. “I will fix the VA, because it’s about leadership, it’s about character, and it’s also about the temperament of humility to listen to people who are smarter than you, who have more experience than you, to help solve this problem.”
On health care:
Schultz said he had “three principles.” First, “every person deserves to have the right for affordable care.” Second, “there needs to be competition in the system.” And there should be “interstate commerce among insurance companies.”
“But there’s no doubt that once again the health care crisis has been with us for a long time,” he added.
On climate change:
Schultz said the Green New Deal being promoted by some congressional Democrats is “not realistic.”
“This would be a top priority. But we have to be sensible about it,” he said.
On possibly helping Trump get re-elected:
Schultz said that “if the math doesn’t tally up” in “three or four months” then “I will not run for president, because I will not do anything whatsoever to re-elect Donald Trump.”
But he would not say what he would do if he decided to run and it began to look like he could help Trump win as the 2020 election grows closer.
Schultz did provide some issues details during the town hall. On immigration, he said he favors a path to citizenship for undocumented migrants who entered the U.S. as children combined with doing everything possible to secure the border. He also said he opposes family separations.
On Syria, he slammed Trump for acting “unilaterally” in deciding to withdraw and said the U.S. “had a moral obligation to stay in Syria, to make sure ISIS does not get stronger, to protect the Kurds, who are fighting right next to us.”
Schultz was very forthright about growing up in Brooklyn, New York, in public housing he referred to as “the projects” with an abusive father. He said that crucible helped drive his later success.
“I lived through the shame and understanding of what it means to be in fear of no health insurance and no money. I took that experience and it provided me a lens of how I would see the world and how I would try and build my company,” he said.
Howard Schultz op-ed: A third-party centrist candidate like me could win the presidency in 2020
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: ‘I honestly don’t see color,’ Howard Schultz says when asked about racial profiling