Anti-Sexual Violence Groups Urge Publisher to Cancel Whole Foods CEO Book Release

Advocacy leaders have called for Whole Foods CEO John Mackey to disavow spiritual leader Marc Gafni, a former rabbi accused of sexual abuse. The New York Times reported Gafni describing one of his alleged victims: "She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her."

A consortium of anti-sexual violence advocacy groups has asked publishing company the Hachette Book Group to cancel its release of Whole Foods CEO John Mackey's book The Whole Foods Diet, scheduled for April 11. 

Led by Peaceful Hearts Foundation (a nonprofit organization founded by Matthew Sandusky, one of six adopted children of Jerry Sandusky, former Penn State coach and convicted pedophile), advocacy leaders emailed executives at the Hachette Book Group, stating:

"There's a culture of silence around child sexual abuse. I believe John Mackey and Whole Foods have an opportunity to really shape that conversation. They need to be held accountable."

Matthew Sandusky, Founder and Executive Director, Peaceful Hearts Foundation

"We ask that Hachette Book Group follow the industry precedent set by Simon & Schuster, which cancelled publication of Milo Yiannopoulos' book because of comments he made about pedophilia. We ask that Hachette Book Group likewise act in good conscience and cancel the release of Mackey's book."

Advocacy leaders from organizations including the National Alliance to End Sexual Violence (NAESV) and Faculty Against Rape (FAR), have called for “sexual violence accountability,” urging Mackey to disavow spiritual leader Marc Gafni, a former rabbi accused of sexual abuse. Gafni is leader of San Francisco Bay Area-based think tank The Center for Integral Wisdom.

Mackey's involvement with Gafni was first reported by The New York Times in December 2015, and subsequently by The Washington Post in May 2016. The Times reported Gafni describing one of his accusers: 

“Mr. Gafni was quoted saying they had been in love. He added, ‘She was 14 going on 35, and I never forced her.’” 

The Times also reported: 

“A co-founder of Whole Foods, John Mackey, a proponent of conscious capitalism, calls Mr. Gafni ‘a bold visionary.’ He is a chairman of the executive board of Mr. Gafni’s center, and he hosts board meetings at his Texas ranch.”

More than 100 rabbis and Jewish leaders, led by New York Rabbi David Ingber, undersigned a petition to Whole Foods: “Stop Marc Gafni from Abusing Again,” citing “many, repeated and serious allegations, both public and private, former and recent.”

Sara Kabakov, the then-girl whom Gafni described as "14 going on 35," came forward publicly for the first time in an opinion piece in the Forward: "I Was 13 When Marc Gafni's Abuse Began."

After The Washington Post reported on protests at Whole Foods stores in New York City and Los Angeles in May, Mackey issued a statement, declaring his loyalty to Gafni, as reported by the Forward: "Whole Foods CEO Remains Loyal to Marc Gafni Despite Abuse Claims."

Mackey stated: “Loyalty and the presumption of innocence are important values to me, so I will not join those who are condemning him.”

In December 2016, advocacy leaders and university professors were among 130 signers of an open letter to board members of Whole Foods, urging "sexual violence accountability," asking Mackey to disavow Gafni.

In February 2017, a consortium of advocacy groups organized a protest at Mackey's speech in San Francisco at Conscious Capitalism, Inc., a business ethics nonprofit organization he founded.

Protest organizers included Bay Area Women Against Rape (BAWAR, the country's first rape crisis center), the Stop Abuse Campaign and Protect NY Kids. Protest speakers included members of RAINN Speakers Bureau, from the country's largest anti-sexual violence organization, and SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, featured in the movie Spotlight about the cover-up of child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church.)

[Watch video: Former model Nikki DuBose, board member of Peaceful Hearts Foundation, speaks at protest at Whole Foods CEO John Mackey's speech in San Francisco.]

Business and ethics experts, including professors from Harvard Business School, the University of Chicago Booth School of Business, and Emory University have criticized Mackey's loyalty to Gafni.

Edward L. Queen, Director, Ethics and Servant Leadership Program, Center for Ethics, Emory University, said: "The CEO of Whole Foods has managed this horribly. While his latest [and only] statement is an improvement in that he finally acknowledges the pain and suffering caused by sexual abuse, he continues to fail to demonstrate the deep thoughtfulness of response these allegations warrant."

Gafni has never been charged with a crime. He is exemplar on a petition to New York state lawmakers, urging them to pass the Child Victims Act, proposed statute of limitations reform for claims of child sexual abuse. The petition has garnered more than 69,000 signatures. In January, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo pledged his support for the bill. 

Andrew Willis, CEO of the Stop Abuse Campaign said: "New York state's statute of limitations laws, some of the strictest in the nation, protect sexual predators and not the children they prey on. Whole Foods CEO Mackey's statement of loyalty to Gafni, who is protected by statutes of limitations, perpetuates the culture of enabling. Mackey should disavow his friend."

[Read on Feminine Collective: "Conscious Capitalism® Issues Statement On Whole Foods CEO Link To Alleged Sex Abuser"]

The email to executives at the Hachette Book Group, sent on behalf of advocacy leaders by Bay Area author and activist Nancy Levine, asked: "To demonstrate support for survivors of sexual assault and child sexual abuse, and to change the culture of sexual violence, will Hachette Book Group cancel the planned release of John Mackey's book?"

Source: Peaceful Hearts Foundation

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About Peaceful Hearts Foundation

Peaceful Hearts Foundation is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit organization founded by Matthew Sandusky and his wife Kim. Provide survivor-informed advocacy, preventing sexual victimization of children through education, awareness raising, and support services.

Peaceful Hearts Foundation



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