Maple Leaf Foods CEO takes over Twitter feed in anti-Trump rant

On January 12th, 2020, The CEO of Maple Leaf Foods, Michael McCain, took over his company's Twitter account to voice his grief over the loss of a colleague, their wife and family in a plane crash in Iran.

McCain put the blame squarely at President Trump's feet despite the Iranian military's admission that it was responsible for shooting it down and killing all 176 people on board. McCain believes this was in response to Iran's attack on a US Embassy in Iraq by killing Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani.

Solemani was “one of the most notorious criminals in Iranian history, who had the blood of hundreds of thousands of the people in Iran and the region,” according to Alireza Jafarzadeh, deputy director of the US office of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI-US)."  

McCain further suggested that President Trump's plan was ill-conceived and meant only to divert focus from what he called "political woes," notably Trump's impeachment. According to NBC, the plan was discussed as early as 2017 and was brought up again in June of last year after Iran shot down a U.S. drone.

Quds force was well known long before Trump entered office. According to NBC, "The administration of President George W. Bush designated the Quds Force a foreign terrorist organization in 2007. Four years later, the Obama administration announced new sanctions on Soleimani and three other senior Quds Force officials in connection with an alleged plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States."

While the US-Iranian tensions have escalated in the past three years, it should not be forgotten that these tensions have ebbed and flowed for the better past of four decades, ever since November 4th 1979 when Iranian Militants took over the U.S. embassy and held more than fifty American diplomats and citizens hostage for three months. 

McCain's tweetstorm comes from a place of grief and suffering at having lost a colleague. It's understandable if misguided for several reasons, and a lack of understanding in this very long history is only one of them. While using  Maple Leaf Food's brand account might have seen like the quickest way to reach the most people, Twitter, as we all know, is not the place for nuance. The brand account is a strange forum to use when up until this point, they were tweeting about sustainability, wishing season's greetings, and helping a sad eight-year-old out who got the Maple Leaf Foods logo on his birthday cake instead of the Toronto Maple Leaf's logo. 

And while it may have felt good to vent anger and maybe a catharsis of sorts was reached, it's hard to imagine the responses helped the situation. For every "we're with you," there were scores of others who didn't appreciate his comments. Some pointed out Canada's own leader and his penchant for wearing blackface and cultural appropriation isn't exactly a beacon of leadership. Others dug up Maple Leaf Foods 2008 tragedy when 57 people were sickened by a listeria outbreak, 22 of whom died to make some kind of point or another. Whataboutism and crass trolling aside, some responses that McCain (and the rest of us) should be reading and listening to came from Iranian ex-pats who endured that regime and might have a different perspective.

Take Armin Habibi's response.

From a brand perspective, Maple Leaf Foods stock took less than a percent dip and it already seems to be rallying. It hasn't really hurt the brand in the short term or long term. High tensions and emotions aside, McCain's outburst isn't justifiable among the marketing team who have worked hard to build a consistent social presence and will now be left picking up the pieces as a result.



Here are McCain's original tweets:

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