NEW YORK — The maker of Skittles candies on Tuesday objected to a social media post by Donald Trump Jr. in which the Republican presidential hopeful’s son compared admitting Syrian refugees to the United States to eating poisoned pieces of the brightly colored, fruit-flavored treats.
Candidate Donald Trump has opposed letting Syrian refugees enter, while his Democratic rival in the Nov. 8 election, Hillary Clinton, has supported accepting some of those fleeing the war-torn country.
In a post on Twitter on Monday accompanied by an image of the candy, Donald Trump Jr. wrote, “If I had a bowl of Skittles and I told you just three would kill you. Would you take a handful? That’s our Syrian refugee problem.”
A spokeswoman for Skittles maker Wm. Wrigley Jr. Co said the company did not feel Trump’s analogy was appropriate.
“Skittles are candy. Refugees are people,” said spokeswoman Michelle Green, adding that the company would refrain from further comment, “as anything we say could be misinterpreted as marketing.”
U.S. admission of Syrian refugees has long been a politically sensitive issue, although the country has admitted far fewer than many close allies. Trump has said that violent militants could enter the country posing as refugees.
In 2015, Democratic President Barack Obama announced plans to admit 10,000 Syrian refugees this year, sparking fierce criticism, mostly from Republicans who said the plan could put Americans at risk. His administration announced in August that it would meet that goal.
The younger Trump’s tweet drew return fire from the Clinton campaign and many Twitter users.
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“Thankful my grandfather was allowed into this country and not compared to a poisonous skittle,” Josh Schwerin, a national spokesman for Clinton, posted on Monday.
Twitter user Neal Rogers on Tuesday, tweeted, “I’d rather die eating a handful of Skittles than live a single day with @realDonaldTrump as president.”
But Trump adviser Jack Kingston, a former U.S. congressman from Georgia, defended the tweet in an interview with MSNBC on Tuesday.
“What he was doing was making an illustration. I don’t think he was comparing refugees to candy at all,” he said, saying some percentage of refugees are going to be “bad actors” without giving specific details.
“What we need to do is say: We’re going to be humanitarian ... but the reality is we need to make sure, as much as possible, who’s coming into America and what are their views on America?”
Trump spokeswoman Hope Hicks did not immediately respond to an emailed request for comment.
The hashtag #SkittlesWelcome was trending on Twitter in the United States, as social media users flooded the microblogging site with jokes mocking the tweet.
(Reporting by Amy Tennery; additional reporting by Emily Flitter and Susan Heavey; editing by Jonathan Oatis)