Every week, 140 million Americans shop at 4,692 Walmart stores in 50 states. There is arguably no other company in the United States that so tangibly touches more Americans of every political, racial and cultural stripe.
So when the company’s chief executive, Doug McMillon, on Monday forcefully criticized President Trump’s response to the deadly violence in Charlottesville, Va., he risked alienating as many customers as he might win over.
Doug McMillon, Walmart’s chief executive. Credit Qilai Shen/Bloomberg
Mr. McMillon’s remarks came during a week when many corporate titans publicly distanced themselves from the president by stepping down from his advisory councils. On Wednesday, a day after the president equated white nationalist hate groups with the demonstrators opposing them, the main council of chief executives, the Strategic and Policy Forum, agreed to disband.
Since the violence in Charlottesville, chief executives across corporate America have had to weigh the risks of taking a stand against the administration. Mr. McMillon himself, while harshly rebuking the president, initially opted not to step down from the Strategic and Policy Forum before it disbanded — an example of the delicate balance that corporate leaders try to strike when dealing with Mr. Trump.
On Wednesday, we spoke with customers at Walmart stores in three communities — Las Vegas; Bloomington, Ind.; and Union Township, N.J.
This is what they had to say about Walmart chief executive’s decision to weigh into the political fray this week.
— Michael Corkery
‘Somebody’s got to say it. We’ve got to speak up.’
Sitting in the Walmart parking lot, Louise Adamson, 78, shook her head as she thought about the violence in Virginia.
“It’s so saddening to see what’s going on, and it’s getting worse and worse,” she said.
Mrs. Adamson and her husband, who recently sold Bloomington Valley Nursery, a garden and landscaping business they started decades ago, attend services each Sunday at Bloomington Southern Baptist church. She said she had voted for Mr. Trump because she liked that he was not a politician.
But President Trump’s response to the violence made her angry, she said, adding that Mr. McMillon was correct in denouncing the president.
“Somebody’s got to say it,” she said. “We’ve got to speak up. So few of us have any kind of say. If you get too involved, you get yourself killed.”
Ed Congdon, who also voted for Mr. Trump, had a different view.
“I think all C.E.O.s should keep their mouths shut,” said Mr. Congdon, 63, who was listening to the Rush Limbaugh radio show while his wife shopped inside. “You want to be a political pundit, go on CNN.”
Mr. Congdon, who drives tractor-trailers for a living, said he agreed with President Trump’s hesitation to place the blame for the violence solely on the “conservative side.”letter Sign UpContinue reading the main story
“The biggest problem is that they’re not calling out the liberal side of things,” he said, adding that the Virginia protesters should be “investigated” as to who “paid them.”
As for giving his business to Walmart, Mr. Congdon seemed resigned. “My wife’s going to be shopping here till the day she dies,” he said.
— Hannah Alani