Howard Schultz: Welcome to politics.
The retired Starbucks executive is, strictly speaking, on tour to sell books. But he got a taste of partisan politics as he made his inaugural stop in New York City on Monday.
A day after saying in a television interview that he was seriously considering a run for the White House as an independent centrist, Schultz was interrupted twice by hecklers at a Barnes & Noble store in Manhattan.
One stood up just as the former Starbucks chairman and chief executive officer was answering his first question from the moderator and called Schultz an “egotistical billionaire.” He added a profanity, urged Schultz not to help re-elect President Donald Trump and told the former coffee executive to “go back to Davos”. The heckler was removed from the room.
“Nobody wants to see Trump fired and leave office more than me,” Schultz said in response to a question from moderator Andrew Ross Sorkin, a journalist at the New York Times.
Schultz, a Brooklyn-born billionaire who built Starbucks into a global brand, would be making his first run for public office if he formally throws his hat in the ring. He’s dabbled with politics and thorny social issues before. Still, his initial announcement that he’s mulling a run faced criticism on both sides, including from Democrats concerned he’d siphon votes away from their party and help get Trump re-elected.
Schultz, 65, said his potential third-party run could give voice to the “silent majority” of Americans who, like him, are concerned that the two major political parties are pushing away from the center toward more extreme positions. He called Trump “a very insecure man” and said the president had “been on the wrong side of almost every issue”.
He also criticised Democrats for pushing proposals, including free health care and education, that would drive up the deficit, saying those ideas were not realistic. At this point, a second protester screamed “health care is a human right” before being removed by security.
As he backs his newly released book, “From the Ground Up,” Schultz will be traveling to cities across the US.
Most of the stops listed on his website are in liberal strongholds, like California, without any stops listed in states with early primaries like Iowa or New Hampshire.
Speculation that he would make a bid for the White House ramped up last June after he announced his retirement as the chairman of Starbucks, listing public service as an option for his next chapter. On Monday, Schultz said he would not consider running for president as a Democrat and would spend the next three months traveling the country before deciding whether to formally jump into the race.
He declined to say specifically if he would drop out of the race if polling showed his candidacy could help Trump, but added, “I’m not going to do anything to put Trump back in the Oval Office.”