Howard Schultz Apologizes For Military Comments

Howard Schultz giving a speech.
Joe Raedle / Getty Images

Howard Schultz, the longtime CEO of Starbucks, has been flirting with an independent presidential run for 2020. The executive, who has never held public office, has now apologized for a notable gaffe.

In an interview this week with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt, per Politico, when asked about his readiness to command the military, Schultz replied that “I probably have spent more time in the last decade certainly than anyone running for president with the military.” This was in reference to visits he has taken to war zones. It was also, perhaps, an oblique reference to Robert Gates — the former secretary of defense in the Bush and Obama administrations — having served on the Starbucks board.

Schultz, however, appears to have forgotten that two of the expected Democratic candidates for president, Congressman Tulsi Gabbard and Mayor Pete Buttigieg, served in the military themselves. Now, he has apologized to them.

“Yesterday I gave a speech on failed political leadership in this country,” Schultz tweeted Thursday. “A point I tried to make is that leaders must take responsibility and own their mistakes. Today I said I spent more time with the military than any candidate running for president. That was wrong.”

“I apologize to @PeteButtigieg and @TulsiGabbard who served our country honorably,” he added. “In that moment I made something that should unite us all, about me. I made a mistake and I apologize.”

Prior to Schultz’s public apology, Buttigieg tweeted that he remembered a Green Beans Coffee when he was deployed in Afghanistan, but does not recall ever seeing a Starbucks there.

Buttigieg was a Naval intelligence officer and continues to serve in the Naval Reserve, while Gabbard served in the Army National Guard. Her service included deployments to Iraq and Kuwait, and she continues to serve as a major.

Schultz did found a charity, Onward Veterans, aimed at helping veterans re-enter the workforce.

Schultz’s hints at a candidacy, at least so far, have been criticized by those who don’t believe the climate is right for a billionaire to run for president. Schulz has also faced criticism from those who see his calls for bipartisanship and centrism as contrary to the national mood. The question has also been raised, per NPR, of whether a Schultz independent candidacy would split the anti-Trump vote, leading to President Trump’s re-election.

Schultz has also said, including in an interview in February, that he would consider dropping out of the race if the Democrats nominate a centrist for president, per The Washington Post.