Even during an age of digital upheaval, there aren’t many soapboxes as effective as a full-page ad in the Sunday New York Times.
Loyal subscribers and fair-weather purchasers of the July 17 edition of the newspaper, as well as the Cleveland Plain Dealer, found a short letter to the Republican party’s presumptive presidential nominee, Donald J. Trump, embedded in the white space of a full-page ad. It was written by John Tetrick, the CEO of Hampton Creek, which produces vegan mayonnaise and other vegan products. The message, which comes just a day before the Republican National Convention kicks off, was straightforward and came without any of Tetrick’s company branding attached. Just his name, a phone number where readers could reach him, and his thoughts:
Americans are frustrated and angry and scared. You’ve channeled this into your nomination.
Americans are also good. We’re generous and courageous and kind. That’s what you’ve missed.
A single mom in Birmingham who taught her son how to rise while respecting women. The Toledo autoworkers fighting to protect the jobs of their immigrant brothers. And the families of faith in Little Rock who believe in lowering taxes without lowering their values.
This is who we are. And this is why your campaign will break down.
Your campaign doesn’t just seem wrong. It feels un-American. To support it would make me less of myself, less of my grandpa’s grandson, less of my mom’s son.
Turning away from you is a way to say who we are.
Reached Sunday morning(July 17), Tetrick said he decided to write the letter and pay for the ad space because he felt it was his personal responsibility to speak up about an issue that has rubbed him the wrong way for months. He said he hoped it inspired others to speak up and start a dialogue with friends and colleagues.
Of course, not everyone can afford to purchase a full-page ad in major newspapers. A 2015 New York Times media kit (pdf) listed a Sunday nationwide full-pager at $193,171. But Tetrick said he hopes the ad encourages other business leaders to stand up and say something.
“It’s easy for quarterly earnings to influence things we say and things we don’t say,” Tetrick said. “Most of the time, I get it. I get it. Then there are these rare times where something is so important that principles collide.”
He’s not suggesting that readers should necessarily cast a vote for Trump’s political opponent, Democrat Hillary Clinton, he said. Rather, the letter was about refusing to support a campaign that Tetrick feels is at odds with fundamental American values.
“When you have a campaign that doesn’t lift up African Americans, when you have a campaign that wants to deport Hispanics … to me, when you call it how it is, that is un-American,” he said. “That’s why I wanted to say something.”
As he spoke, a separate phone—the one registered to the number he included on the ad—beeped incessantly in the background. Tetrick said the first call he got was from an employee working in The New York Times newspaper press facility, as papers were coming off the line.