Former Starbucks CEO and potential presidential candidate Howard Schultz apologized on Thursday after claiming he’d spent more time speaking with members of the military than “anyone running for president” ― despite the fact that two 2020 hopefuls are veterans who served in the armed forces.
“Yesterday I gave a speech on failed political leadership in this country. A point I tried to make is that leaders must take responsibility and own their mistakes,” tweeted Schultz, who is still mulling an independent bid for president.
“Today I said I spent more time with the military than any candidate running for president. That was wrong.”
He then issued an apology to Pete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Indiana, and Hawaii Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, both military veterans. Buttigieg is a lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve and served in Afghanistan. Gabbard is a member of the Army National Guard and served in Iraq and Kuwait.
“In that moment I made something that should unite us all, about me,” Schultz continued. “I made a mistake and I apologize.”
The former Starbucks chief made the comments earlier in the day during an appearance on conservative host Hugh Hewitt’s radio show. In response to a question asking if he would be “competent” to run the U.S. military, Schultz said he had vast experience talking to members of the armed forces.
“I probably have spent more time in the last decade certainly than anyone running for president with the military,” he said. “I’ve been to Okinawa, I’ve been to Kuwait. … I’ve been to the national training center in the Mojave Desert.”
The conversation prompted a social media retort from Buttigieg.
Schutlz has yet to formally announce whether he’s running for the White House, but his bid has already proved unpopular and efforts to cast himself as a rags-to-riches success have drawn criticism. Still, he has pledged not to be a “spoiler” for Democrats and that he would “do nothing whatsoever” to re-elect President Donald Trump.
Politico notes that under his tenure, Schultz made a 2013 pledge that Starbucks would hire 10,000 veterans and military spouses by 2018. The company has now hired more than 21,000.