The Whole Foods Health Care Controversy: Defending the Right to Disagree

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record," August 21, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, FOX NEWS HOST: Well, it's getting ugly, protesters taking to the streets in front of Whole Foods stores in Washington, D.C., New York and Austin. And it's all about the health care debate. The protesters are furious at the CEO of the nationwide chain Whole Foods. John Mackey, who wrote an op-ed calling for health care reform, but opposing the president's plan. Well, now he has some angry customers on his hands because he dared to disagree.

Steve Moore joins us. He's a senior economic writer for The Wall Street Journal editorial page. Steve, I like -- I like it typically when people join together and boycott and show us their consumer power and strength and fight back. This one I don't agree with because this guy just -- he suggested another idea, and boy, some people are mad at him.

STEPHEN MOORE, WALL STREET JOURNAL, "THE END OF PROSPERITY" CO- AUTHOR: Well, I would defend their right to do it, Greta. I mean, I agree with you. I think that people have the right to boycott companies if it bothers their conscience, what the company or what the CEO is doing. I wish, by the way, that conservatives would do that more often when CEOs speak out in a more liberal direction or when companies do something like General Electric in a more liberal direction.

But here's the interesting part of the story that you touched on a little bit, Greta. This company, Whole Foods, is -- is a very liberal- friendly company. It sells organic foods and health foods. It provides health insurance for its workers. It is actually a store that is populated by people who are very health-conscious. And so this is a good corporate citizen company, and yet the left is thrashing out at it.

VAN SUSTEREN: You know -- you know, in his op-ed, he said, We need health care reform, here's my idea. And here's a guy who -- he wasn't criticizing the president and not offering another alternative. He wasn't shutting down people in his own store. He just -- he simply said, you know, Based on my experience as an entrepreneur -- and he's been extraordinarily successful -- you know, here's my idea. And it has lit people on fire against him!

MOORE: That's right. And what he has been able to do with his company, Whole Foods -- and as I said, he provides health insurance for his workers and he provides very good pay for them -- is he's saying, Let's use this model. It's working really well. It's cutting costs. It's providing insurance for my workers.

And I do think it is very ironic that a company that's doing the right thing -- as I said, it's a good corporate citizen. I know John Mackey very well, Greta. I've debated him before on issues. He -- he's a big opponent of high corporate CEO pay. And in fact, he doesn't pay himself very much himself, either, because of -- of that issue of conscience for him. So he is very much in line with the liberal thinking on many issues, and yet because he speaks his mind on this issue, he is seen as some kind of villain or demon.

VAN SUSTEREN: You talk about corporate pay. I think he cut his own corporate pay in 2007...

MOORE: That's right.

VAN SUSTEREN: ... I read, to a dollar a year and donates his -- the dividends he gets from his own stock to charities. So I mean, he just seems like -- he seems like the wrong -- if you want to have an effective boycott to make a point, you should find someone who is really a demon, not just a guy who's been good to his people...


VAN SUSTEREN: ... and come up with a different idea and dare to disagree. He just seems like the just the dumbest target you could come up with!

MOORE: Well, that's exactly my point. And let's not forget what the left's mission is here. They want to intimidate anybody else from speaking out, any CEO or any director of a corporation to speak their mind on this issue because now companies are going to fear that they're going to lose their customer base.

But here's the good news of the story, Greta. So far, there's no evidence whatsoever that the boycott is working. The stock of the company took a slight hit when this was announced, but actually, it's increased in the last week or so. And they -- the people at the stores are saying there's been no drop in business. So so far, this boycott looks like it is not working and it's not affecting the bottom line of Whole Foods.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is it -- what -- this guy just started this grocery store, by the way, in about 1979 out of his garage or something?

MOORE: Yes. He's a great American entrepreneur. He now employs tens of thousands of American workers. And you're right, this is one of those Bill Gates type story, where this was really started in his -- in his basement as a -- as a health food store and is now one of the biggest grocery store chains in America.

VAN SUSTEREN: Steve, thank you. Got to go. Thank you, Steve.

MOORE: See you, Greta. Have a great weekend.

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