Former Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz, in an interview Wednesday with Fox News, accused Democrats of pushing a "false narrative" with unrealistic promises of free college, government health care and more -- while firing back at critics who say his possible independent presidential run would boost President Trump.
Speaking with Dana Perino on "The Daily Briefing," Schultz said those who claim he would siphon off Democratic votes if he ran are overreacting, arguing he could also win over Republicans. And he explained why he would not consider running as a Democrat, given their platform.
“If I ran as a Democrat, which I would not do, I would have to be disingenuous given the platform that they are moving towards, which is a level of ... [a] health care government takeover, of free college for everyone, a job for everyone which tallies about 40-trillion dollars,” Schultz told Dana Perino.
He added: “It's just not realistic. So we need a thoughtful serious conversation. And the Democrats are really creating a false narrative in the same way that President Trump created a false narrative by saying the Mexicans were going to pay for the wall. It's not truthful.”
Schultz, a 65-year-old Seattle billionaire who launched a tour Monday to promote his latest book, "From the Ground Up: A Journey to Reimagine the Promise of America," has been the subject of presidential speculation ever since saying when he retired from Starbucks last June that his future could include "public service."
While he did not give a definitive answer on his plans while speaking to Perino, Schultz mentioned his working-class upbringing in New York City and his concern for the current state of America as reasons why he is mulling a White House bid.
On paper, Schultz offers a number of qualities that might appeal to voters. He grew up in public housing in Brooklyn, New York, and became the first person in his family to graduate from college.
He took over Starbucks when it sold only coffee beans, not cups — it had 11 stores and fewer than 100 employees at the time — and grew it into a global behemoth that now has close to 30,000 stores in 78 countries. He made Starbucks one of the earliest U.S. companies to offer stock options and health insurance even to part-time employees, and more recently partnered with Arizona State University to cover tuition for workers who want to earn their bachelor's degree online.
“If you think about my life story, you know, I grew up in public housing in Brooklyn, New York,” Schultz said. “I am living proof literally of the American dream. I've come from the other side of the tracks and have been very successful in building a different kind of company.”
Schultz added: “I have serious profound concerns about the country. I want to do everything I can to restore faith in our government and to give the American people a real chance an opportunity at the American dream. That's why I'm here.”
The former Starbucks chief is also a longtime Democratic donor, contributing to the campaigns of former President Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton, New York Sen. Chuck Schumer, and Washington Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, among others. But his story and past Democratic support appear to have not won him any leeway with a Democratic Party singularly focused on taking back the White House from Trump and concerned that any independent run would be to Trump’s benefit.
Schultz called that an overreaction and said his campaign would appeal just as much to centrist Republicans as it would Democrats.
“I think the Democrats need a little bit less caffeine right now,” he said. “So I think I think they've over-rotated completely because it's very possible that if I run for president as a centrist independent that more lifelong Republicans will come my way than Democrats.”
He added: "I think they're overreacting that there is a very strong possibility that more lifelong Republicans who will have no place to go if there is a left leaning liberal progressive Democrat they will vote for Donald Trump."
The ex-Starbucks chairman also lambasted current Democratic presidential candidate, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts, who said that billionaires like Schultz and former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg would only run for president to maintain the status quo.
“I find that so offensive,” Schultz said. “First of all Elizabeth Warren doesn't know me. I mean I started from nothing. I'm self-made. Isn't that the promise of America to that regardless of your station in life or where you come from that you can be successful in this country?”
Schultz also went after another Democratic candidate, Sen. Kamala Harris of California, for having “unrealistic” goals when it comes to providing "Medicare-for-all."
“I know a great deal about the health care issue, especially living as a kid who lost health insurance, and I provided it to my employees,” he said. “To come out with the suggestion that we were going to eliminate or eradicate the insurance industry, it’s so false and it speaks to the level of politics that we now have now."
He added: “It's not it's not reasonable, it's not thoughtful, it's not truthful, and it's what's wrong.”
The Associated Press contributed to this report.