Wal-Mart Stores Inc. said Thursday that a staff member for former Sen. John Edwards — a vocal critic of the retailer — asked his local Wal-Mart store for help in getting the potential 2008 presidential candidate a Sony PlayStation 3. Edwards said a volunteer did so by mistake.
Edwards told The Associated Press that the volunteer "feels terrible" about seeking the game unit at Wal-Mart a day after his boss criticized the company, saying it doesn't treat its employees fairly.
"My wife, Elizabeth, wanted to get a Playstation3 for my young children. She mentioned it in front of one of my staff people," Edwards said. "That staff person mentioned it in front of a volunteer who said he would make an effort to get one. He was making an effort to go get one for himself.
"Elizabeth and I knew nothing about this. He feels terrible about this. He made a mistake, and he knows he should not have used my name," Edwards said.
Edwards said the volunteer was "a young kid" unaware of what he called flawed Wal-Mart policies. He called the Wal-Mart statement an effort to divert attention from its own problems.
After Wal-Mart this summer hired Edelman executive Leslie Dach as its public relations director and put him on the company's executive team, analysts said the retailer would likely become more aggressive toward its critics.
Wal-Mart had noted in a news release Thursday that on the same day Edwards was criticizing the company in a conference call with union-backed activists, the volunteer staff member had asked a Raleigh, N.C., electronics department manager to obtain a PS3 for the ex-senator's family.
From Wal-Mart headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., company spokesman David Tovar said the person who called left a voicemail at the Raleigh store and identified himself as an Edwards staff member. When the manager returned the call, the staff member again identified himself as working for Edwards, and Wal-Mart said it confirmed that with Edwards' office.
The retailer's news release accused Edwards of not wanting to wait his turn.
"While the rest of America's working families are waiting patiently in line, Senator Edwards wants to cut to the front," the Wal-Mart statement said.
The PlayStation 3 console is set to go on sale Friday.
Edwards, the Democrats' vice presidential candidate in 2004, spoke Wednesday to supporters of union-backed WakeUpWalMart.com on a conference call launching the group's holiday season campaign to pressure Wal-Mart for better labor standards.
In the call, he repeated a story about his son Jack disapproving of a classmate buying sneakers at Wal-Mart. "If a 6-year-old can figure it out, America can definitely figure this out," Edwards said.
Previously, Edwards has appeared at WakeUpWalMart rallies.