For Helping Immigrants, Chobani’s Founder Draws Threats
By many measures, Chobani embodies the classic American immigrant success story.
Its founder, Hamdi Ulukaya, is a Turkish immigrant of Kurdish descent. He bought a defunct yogurt factory in upstate New York, added a facility in Twin Falls, Idaho, and now employs about 2,000 people making Greek yogurt.
But in this contentious election season, the extreme right has a problem with Chobani: In its view, too many of those employees are refugees.
As Mr. Ulukaya has stepped up his advocacy — employing more than 300 refugees in his factories, starting a foundation to help migrants, and traveling to the Greek island of Lesbos to witness the crisis firsthand — he and his company have been targeted with racist attacks on social media and conspiratorial articles on websites including Breitbart News.
Then this summer, Breitbart, the conservative news website whose former executive chairman, Stephen K. Bannon, is now running the Trump campaign, began publishing a series of misleading articles about Chobani.
One drew a connection between Chobani’s hiring of refugees and a spike in tuberculosis cases in Idaho. Another linked Chobani to a “Twin Falls Crisis Imposed by Clinton-Era Pro-Refugee Advocates.” A third conflated Chobani’s hiring practices with a sexual assault case in Twin Falls involving minors.
As Breitbart began publishing its articles, the online attacks grew more intense. On Twitter and Facebook, users called for a boycott of Chobani. An image was widely shared on social media that claimed Mr. Ulukaya was “going to drown the United States in Muslims and is importing them to Idaho 300 at a time to work in his factory.” And bloggers fabricated stories claiming that Chobani was pressuring local officials “to facilitate their multitude of Muslim friendly/Islamification requests.”