WASHINGTON — President-elect Donald Trump came to the aid of L.L. Bean Thursday, tweeting his support for the company and urging people to buy its products.
Trump is apparently taking the stance after an anti-Trump group said L.L. Bean should be considered for a boycott because an heiress of the company made political donations supporting Trump.
“Thank you to Linda Bean of L.L. Bean for your great support and courage,” Trump tweeted. “People will support you even more now. Buy L.L. Bean.”
The anti-Trump group, “Grab Your Wallet,” is behind the boycott list that includes several major retailers.
As for L.L. Bean, “Grab Your Wallet” claimed that Linda Bean, granddaughter of the company’s founder and a current board member, donated to a political action committee that raised funds for Trump during the presidential campaign. As a result the anti-Trump group said L.L. Bean should be considered for a boycott — a special category on the broader boycott the list.
The anti-Trump group claimed the other retailers named on the boycott list either do business with the Trump family or sell Trump family products.
Linda Bean, appearing on Fox News Business Thursday morning, defended her company and accused Grab Your Wallet of “bullying.”
“I think it very much a case of bullying,” Bean said. “It’s bullying me. It’s bullying the companies that I own and bullying the one I am currently on — L.L. Bean — which I have owned since I was a child.”
“I’ve been on the board for decades. I think I’ve done a good job for our employees. They are the victims — the company’s employees if the boycott succeeds,” she added.
Bean said she donated $25,000 to Making America Great Again, a Super PAC that supported Trump during the campaign.
Bean said her cousin, an L.L Bean executive, donated to President Obama four years ago but suffered no consequences and did not face a call for a boycott from his donation, calling that a “double standard.”
“I’m the the one being targeted and vilified and asked to be taken off the board,” she said. “That’s the demand [from the group] that I leave the board. We are a 10-member board and because I personally gave money to that campaign…”
She said she would not step down from L.L. Bean’s board and hoped the anti-Trump group’s action would backfire and actually boost L.L. Bean’s sales.
Shawn Gorman, executive chairman of L.L. Bean, posted a statement on the company’s Facebook page on Jan. 8, expressing disappointment that Grab Your Wallet is “advocating a boycott against L.L. Bean solely because Linda Bean, who is only one of 50-plus family members involved with the business, personally supported Donald Trump for president.”
“We fully acknowledge and respect that some may disagree with the political views of a single member of our 10-person board of directors,” Gorman said. “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.”
He said the company is “deeply troubled by the portrayal of L.L. Bean as a supporter of any political agenda.”
“L.L. Bean does not endorse political candidates, take positions on political matters, or make political contributions,” he added. “Simply put, we stay out of politics. To be included in this boycott campaign is simply misguided, and we respectfully request that Grab Your Wallet reverse its position.”
L.L. Bean has been a family-owned business since it was founded in 1912.
Gorman said the company employs 5,000 people and has tens of millions of dollars to non-profit organizations promoting environmental stewardship, educational attainment and a host of other worthy causes at the local, state and national levels.
“Our owners, employees and customers hold views and embrace causes that are individual and diverse,” Gorman said. “We are united by our love for the outdoors and our guiding principles established back in 1912 by Leon Leonwood Bean himself who believed ‘do unto others’ was not just a saying, but a way of life.”
Shannon Coulter, one of the founders of the anti-Trump group and a brand and digital strategist based in San Francisco, started the #GrabYourWallet hashtag in October, followed a leaked tape in which Trump made lewd comments about women, according to the web site.
The group’s founders (which include Sue Atencio) said they “simultaneously realized they could no longer in good conscience shop at retailers that do business with the Trump family,” according to a post on their site.
Since then, the group has circulated a spreadsheet calling for a boycott of nearly 40 major retailers purportedly doing business with the Trump family and/or selling Trump products in their stores. The spreadsheet includes contact numbers for each of the retailers. Another 32 companies are cited on the spreadsheet as being candidates for a potential boycott.
Coulter did not respond to a request for comment.