It’s unlikely he was wearing the company’s iconic duck boots, but President-elect Donald Trump on Thursday waded into the controversy swamping L.L. Bean over a family heiress’s support for the Republican during the presidential campaign.
In a tweet Thursday morning, Trump thanked Linda Bean, granddaughter of L.L. Bean founder Leon Leonwood Bean and a member of the company’s board, for her donations to a pro-Trump political action committee.
He also encouraged his followers to ignore a call to boycott the iconic Maine retailer.
Trump’s tweet also mentioned @LBPerfectMaine, the Twitter handle for Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine, a separate company she runs that includes at least one restaurant, an art gallery, boat tours, and lobster catching and cooking classes. The “lobsticle,” a marinated lobster tail on a stick, is a product the company has touted.
Bean also ran two unsuccessful campaigns for the House of Representatives as a Republican from Maine.
The flap began last week, after the Associated Press reported that Linda Bean had donated $60,000 to Making America Great Again LLC in support of Trump, a sum that the Federal Elections Commission said exceeded donor limits. (The political committee later amended its financial reports to say she had donated $30,000.)
The news attracted the attention of #grabyourwallet, a social media campaign that has targeted businesses backing Trump. It urged people to consider boycotting L.L. Bean. That in turn prompted the Freeport-based company to release a statement that it does not make political endorsements.
Trump’s tweet came at 8:50 a.m., about an hour after Bean appeared on the Fox Business Network. During the appearance, she referred to the calls for a boycott as “bullying,” both of herself and of the company. She said anti-Trump groups are “un-American” because they “want to control how we spend our money, what we buy, where we buy it.”
Trump has previously tweeted about topics shortly after they appeared on television. In November, he criticized protesters who burn the US flag about 30 minutes after a segment about the practice aired on Fox News.
Trump has also named individual companies on Twitter, though often along more critical lines. The president-elect’s tweets about defense companies Boeing and Lockheed Martin have nicked the companies’ stock prices. L.L. Bean is a privately held company, making it difficult to know what effect Trump’s support would have on its business.
Linda Bean’s Perfect Maine didn’t respond to requests for comment following Trump’s tweet. But in an appearance Thursday night on Fox News, Bean said she would have expected protesters to target the Perfect Maine brand instead of L.L. Bean.
“I have my own companies and it’s surprising to me that they’re not attacking my businesses,” she said.
As it did Sunday in an open letter on the company’s Facebook page, L.L.Bean said it doesn’t donate to or endorse politicians.
“As always our top priorities remain making boots, selling products and serving our customers, Carolyn Beem, a spokeswoman for the company, wrote Thursday in an e-mail.
Earlier this week, Beem had noted that the five-generation company has a sprawling family tree whose “members cover nearly the entire political spectrum.”
Linda Bean hit a similar note in her Fox Business appearance on Thursday.
“I gave the donation personally to a PAC to support Trump,” Bean said. “And you know my cousin gave to Obama four years ago.”
Stephen Hahn-Griffiths, managing director at the Reputation Institute, a firm that helps companies manage their brands, said that consumers’ opinions about L.L. Bean were unlikely to change — positively or negatively — based on the boycott call and Trump’s reaction to it.
“I think the brand is stronger than his input. L.L. Bean has a storied brand and are already doing very well, thank you very much,” he said.
“At the end of the day, people are buying into the corporate brand. Donald Trump is just one opinion.”
Adam Vaccaro can be reached at email@example.com.