It recently came to light that Publix Super Markets heiress Julie Jenkins Fancelli gave the bulk of the funding to the January 6 rally at which former President Donald Trump incited an insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, culminating in mayhem, terror, death, and the delay of democracy with the intent to stop it.
In case you missed it, here's what the Florida-based company said regarding Fancelli, daughter of its deceased founder and heiress to his fortune. “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. 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,” Publix spokeswoman Maria Brous said.
That’s it, Publix? That’s all the “public” gets in terms of explanation? With more than 800 stores in the state of Florida, more than 200,000 essential employees, and nearly $40 billion in annual revenue — and selected by Gov. Ron DeSantis as the first retail site in Florida for COVID vaccinations — you aren’t just a company with a public relations problem. You are a vital, if not a monopolistic, resource that many Floridians count on whether they like it or not. Even your brand name, “Publix,” is just letter off of “Public.” Because of this, we expect, deserve, and frankly demand a much more direct and truthful comment and commitment against the assault on our constitutional democracy and those who carried it out.
Here’s what we should have heard from Publix. “Publix denounces the insurrection and the lies about the truthful election results that caused the horrific violence and loss of life at the capitol on January 6, 2021. It wasn’t just an attack on Americans, America, and our capitol, it was an attack on freedom, equality, truth, democracy, and love — all values Publix joins America in cherishing and holding dear. All of those responsible, from planning to funding, inciting, and carrying out the violence and terrorism, need to be held accountable and punished for their roles in the insurrection, including Julie Jenkins Fancelli.
“While a beneficiary of Publix founder George Jenkins’s estate, 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 insurrectionist actions that occurred that day do not represent the values, work, or opinions of Publix Super Markets. We will immediately suspend any future political donations as a company and also eliminate tabloid publications from our shelves that perpetuated insurrectionist lies about the election among other actions to restore the Public’s Trust in Publix,” Publix Super Markets CEO Todd Jones should have said.
Words matter. And there’s a big difference between what Publix said and what it should have said.
Never does Publix use the word “insurrection” or denounce it. Instead, it weakly describes the attack on American democracy by saying, “The violence at the Capitol on Jan. 6 was a national tragedy.” A tragedy? No. It was a preventable travesty, carried out by, funded by, and incited by the former president and those who repeated his lies about the election and who chose to follow his instructions and storm our country’s temple of democracy.
Additionally, Publix never denounces the election lies that fueled the insurrection. Instead, Publix chooses to use an incendiary word like “deplorable,” which was purposeful in some demented way, or else it was indicative of an entire group of executives asleep at the wheel in using the most infamous word of the last five years, which likely cost Hillary Clinton the 2016 election when she made the mistake of branding Trump supporters with it.
Actually, Publix, I helped you out in the statement of what you should have said. “Insurrection” is a more appropriate word, and the one you should have used instead of “deplorable.” How simple. How honest. How right. Instead, Publix knowingly or ignorantly chose division. Either way, that’s the real definition of deplorable.
Never does Publix repudiate the actions and participation in the insurrection. Instead, those in charge choose to say, “We cannot comment on Mrs. Fancelli’s actions.” Yes, you can. On behalf of your many diverse employees, vendors, customers, and now the public relying on Publix as a source of the vaccine in your home state of Florida, you absolutely have the right and the responsibility to comment, condemn, and call for justice with insurrection against America. Otherwise, your support of anti-racism efforts, women’s advancement, commitment to multicultural communities, and social justice is as hollow as your words about Fancelli’s central role in the January 6 insurrection.
And speaking of values, Publix, words are meaningless compared to living these words through action and standing for truth. For example, why did Publix actively put forward a named spokesperson, Maria Brous, with the statement versus CEO Todd Jones? Speaking of women, why did Publix choose to use the outmoded reference of “Mrs. Fancelli” versus her full legal name that includes the founder’s name, Julie Jenkins Fancelli, while also obscuring the fact that while technically she’s not an employee, she owes her fortune to the prosperity of Publix? And since Publix has to serve virtually every citizen in the state with its market dominance, why does it continue to give to political parties and not take this opportunity to stop the practice? And, finally, why does Publix continue to line checkout lines with tabloids that bring election-lying and insurrection-inciting headlines to millions of shoppers and are published by AMI and David Pecker, after both took immunity from prosecution in crimes committed with former President Trump? Where are the progressive, truthful news sources at checkout?
If Publix was truly committed to our democracy, freedom, truthful elections, and being against insurrection, it would have said something completely different, said it with different words, and lived it every day in its actions, contributions, and news products, among many other ways we see and don’t see.
Michael Kelley is a resident of Pompano Beach, Fla., and Provincetown, Mass.