Publix Super Markets, the Southern grocery chain which has often been accused of anti-LGBTQ+ discrimination, is being threatened with boycotts after it was revealed that the heiress to the company was the biggest funder of the January 6 Donald Trump rally that led to the invasion of the U.S. Capitol.
Julie Jenkins Fancelli, daughter of Publix founder George Jenkins, contributed $300,000 to the rally, which had a total cost of about $500,000, The Wall Street Journal reported Sunday. The funding was arranged by far-right conspiracy theorist and talk show host Alex Jones.
At the rally on the National Mall in Washington, D.C., Trump urged his supporters to go to the capitol and stop Congress from certifying the electoral vote in Joe Biden’s favor, as Trump claimed the election was stolen. The rally also included an anti-transgender rant by Donald Trump Jr.
The result was that the mob broke into and vandalized the capitol, called for the execution of Vice President Mike Pence (who was overseeing the certification), and threatened members of Congress. Five people died of injuries or health events directly related to the action, and two police officers who responded have since died by suicide. The certification was interrupted, but the House and Senate reconvened in a joint session that night to resume the process, and they did certify Biden as the winner. Trump Sr. has now been impeached for a second time because of his role in the riot; while he is already out of office, a conviction could set up a second vote on barring him from running for office again.
Publix issued a statement Monday downplaying Fancelli’s connection to the company. “Mrs. Fancelli is not an employee of Publix Super Markets, and is neither involved in our business operations, nor does she represent the company in any way,” the statement said, according to Business Insider. “We cannot comment on Mrs. Fancelli’s actions. The violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 was a national tragedy. The deplorable actions that occurred that day do not represent the values, work or opinions of Publix Super Markets.”
Fancelli is a huge Republican donor, having contributed $980,000 to a joint account for Trump’s reelection campaign and the Republican Party. After the revelations in the Journal story, many social media users are posting that they will no longer shop at Publix.
Publix operates in seven Southern states, with the bulk of its stores in Florida. It received much criticism in 2018 for refusing to cover AIDS prevention medications in its employee health care plan. It then reversed the policy, agreeing to cover drugs used in the prevention strategy known as pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). It has frequently been accused of discriminating against LGBTQ+ employees. For instance, a cake decorator who said he was fired for being gay was awarded $100,000 after filing a complaint with the Broward County Human Rights Board in Florida.
Publix, based in Lakeland, Fla., currently has a zero percent rating on the Human Rights Campaign's Corporate Equality Index.
The company is also under scrutiny for a $100,000 donation to Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis’s reelection campaign. After making the donation, it became the only retailer authorized to distribute the COVID-19 vaccine in the state. DeSantis, a Republican, will be up for reelection in 2022.