John Mackey, the CEO of Whole Foods, is dealing with a huge backlash from customers of the upscale supermarket chain who have been angered by his recent comments likening Obamacare to fascism.
Mackey, who made the comments during an interview promoting a book on capitalism, has since tried to walk back his more inflammatory statements, explaining he was talking about fascism in economic terms, not as a system of repression under the Third Reich.
But the self-parsing has done little good as Whole Foods customers -- often described as upscale progressives and fervent health food addicts -- have lashed out at Mackey on blogs, Facebook, Twitter and the supermarket's own website, according to the British MailOnline.com.
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"I am very offended over your comparing President Obama's health care program to fascism. Your apology probably is only for fear of losing customers, which I certainly hope you will. I will never speak highly of your store again, and I will certainly cut back on my shopping there. Shame on you," wrote Dorothy Blalock.
"I always viewed Whole Foods as a progressive leader in providing consumers with a wonderful variety of organic and healthy food. I have done my weekly shopping at WF for years. I was truly shocked to hear Mr Mackey's comment regarding health care. Your comments were offensive and hateful. Sorry to say, I can no longer patronize your business," wrote Diane Navarro, according to the MailOnline.
In an interview to promote his new book, Mackey originally was quizzed about an article he had written in The Wall Street Journal in 2009 that also likened Obamacare to socialism.
"Technically speaking, it's more like fascism,’ Mackey told NPR. "
Socialism is where the government owns the means of production. In fascism, the government doesn't own the means of production but they do control it. And that's what's happening with our health care program with these reforms."
Mackey, for his part, is clarifying but not apologizing for what he described as a poor word choice. He still is very critical of Obamacare.
"The term fascism today stirs up too much negative emotion with its horrific associations in the 20th century," said Mackey in a statement posted Thursday on the Whole Food's website.
"I believe that, if the goal is universal health care, our country would be far better served by combining free enterprise capitalism with a strong governmental safety net for our poorest citizens and those with preexisting conditions, helping everyone to be able to buy insurance.
"This is what Switzerland does and I think we would be much better off copying that system than where we are currently headed in the United States."
Here's Mackey's full statement:
"I made a poor word choice to describe our health care system, which I definitely regret. The term fascism today stirs up too much negative emotion with its horrific associations in the 20th century.
"While I'm speaking as someone who works hard to offer health care benefits to more than 73,000 team members, who actually vote on their overall benefits packages, I am very concerned about the uninsured and those with preexisting conditions.
"I believe that, if the goal is universal health care, our country would be far better served by combining free enterprise capitalism with a strong governmental safety net for our poorest citizens and those with preexisting conditions, helping everyone to be able to buy insurance. This is what Switzerland does and I think we would be much better off copying that system than where we are currently headed in the United States.
"I believe that health care should be competitive in the open market to promote innovation and creativity. Despite the criticism of me, I am encouraged that this dialogue will bring continued awareness and a better understanding of viable health care options for all Americans. There is an alternative to mandated health care in free enterprise capitalism based on voluntary exchange for mutual gain.
"This alternative allows individuals and businesses to innovate and develop customized solutions to health care where a 'one size fits all approach' fails. Creativity and progress are stifled when government regulations dictate the parameters of what health care plans can be offered. Creative businesses, and the people who work them, can make something that has value for all stakeholders.
"I need a new word or phrase to describe the state of health care now because it is something that I, like all folks entrusted with the wellbeing of a team, grapple with daily in this era. I think for now I will simply call it government-controlled health care to distinguish it from free enterprise capitalist health care.
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"Clearly, I would prefer free enterprise capitalism in health care because it would greatly increase innovation and progress - just like it does in every other aspect of our lives, wherever it is allowed to exist.
"I hope those who are my critics, would recognize that we are all after an improved state of society, and not be distracted by the poor use of an emotionally charged word."
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