As companies pledged support and money to fight racism following George Floyd’s killing in May 2020, Tom Naratil, U.S. president of the financial firm UBS, told his 20,000 workers, “Silence is not an option.”
“We all have a responsibility to call out hate, to stand for what’s right and to turn emotion into constructive action,” Naratil said.
And UBS followed up. It donated more than $3 million to racial justice groups. It joinedan industry push to combat economic disparities based on race.
But UBS Americas also donated $17,500 to the campaign and political action committees of Rep. Elise Stefanik of New York, the No. 3 House Republican, after she was widely criticized for echoing the white supremacist “great replacement” theory in campaign advertisements late last year. UBS declined to comment.
Stefanik’s ads are under renewed scrutiny after a deadly mass shooting in Buffalo, where an 18-year-old shooting suspect was allegedly inspired by the baseless theory — about people of color replacing White people — to kill 10 people at a supermarket in a predominantly Black neighborhood.
But Stefanik is not a fringe political candidate that companies could easily decide to avoid. She has emerged as a rising star in the Republican Party who could have a leading voice in House leadership if the GOP wins control of the House in the midterm elections. Companies have treated her as such.
UBS was one of 22 large U.S. companies with racial justice pledges that continued donating money to Stefanik after her controversial ads, according to a Washington Post analysis. These companies, including Anheuser Busch and Walgreens, made vocal pledges to use their resources to combat racism while at the same time bankrolling a politician with a message widely seen as racist, illustrating a thorny contradiction for corporate America as companies seek to exert influence while following ethical principles.