Fact check: Social media posts misrepresent Starbucks CEO quote from 2013
The claim: Starbucks' CEO said, 'If you support traditional marriage, don't buy our coffee'
A Feb. 1 Facebook post (direct link, archive link) shows a screenshot of a tweet about the Starbucks CEO.
"The CEO of Starbucks just said, ‘If you support traditional marriage, don’t buy our coffee.' I accept those terms," reads the Jan. 23 tweet.
The post garnered more than 200 shares in two days. Similar posts have been shared on Facebook.
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Our rating: False
This is a misrepresentation of a statement Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz made in a 2013 shareholders meeting. Schultz said the company's decision to support same-sex marriage was not an economic one and that any shareholders who didn't agree with the decision could invest their money elsewhere.
Post inaccurately describes CEO's 2013 quote
Starbucks chairman and CEO Howard Schultz never said the quote attributed to him in the post.
It's a misrepresentation of a statement he made at Starbucks' 2013 annual shareholder meeting, which took place after the Supreme Court struck down a section of the Defense of Marriage Act that denied federal benefits to couples in same-sex marriages.
During the meeting's question-and-answer portion, a shareholder named Tom Strobhar said the company's stance on same-sex marriage had caused its sales and earnings to drop. Strobhar founded the Corporate Morality Action Center, which challenges corporations that "offend traditional moral norms."
In response to Strobhar's comment, Schultz said he was free to invest elsewhere.
“Not every decision is an economic decision,” said Schultz. “If you feel, respectfully, that you can get a higher return than the 38% you got last year, it’s a free country. You can sell your shares in Starbucks and buy shares in another company."
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The interaction was reported on by outlets like Forbes and The Washington Post at the time, and footage of Schultz's statement was published by the Seattle outlet Puget Sound Business Journal.
Sam Jeffries, a Starbucks spokesperson, told USA TODAY in an email that the claim in the post is false.
USA TODAY reached out to the Facebook user who shared the post for comment. The Twitter user could not be reached.
This claim has been debunked by PolitiFact, Reuters, AFP and the Associated Press.
Our fact-check sources:
USA TODAY, June 26, 2013, Supreme Court strikes down Defense of Marriage Act
Starbucks Stories & News, June 26, 2015, Starbucks Applauds Supreme Court’s Ruling on Marriage Equality
Corporate Morality Action Center, accessed Feb. 3, Home
The Washington Post, March 25, 2013, Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz’s grande support for gay marriage
Forbes, March 22, 2013, Howard Schultz to Anti-Gay-Marriage Starbucks Shareholder: 'You Can Sell Your Shares'
Puget Sound Business Journal, March 23, 2013, Starbucks CEO defends gay-marriage stance in shareholder meeting questions (Video)
Sam Jeffries, Feb. 6, Email exchange with USA TODAY
PolitiFact, June 5, 2018, Website misquotes former Starbucks chairman Howard Schultz about views on marriage
AFP, Feb. 3, Fake Starbucks CEO quote on 'traditional marriage' resurfaces online
Reuters, Feb. 18, 2021, Fact check: Starbucks CEO did not say that ‘traditional marriage’ supporters should not buy Starbucks coffee
Associated Press, Feb. 2, Post twists words of Starbucks CEO on marriage
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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Fact check: Posts misstate Starbucks CEO's quote about gay marriage