Chobani Shares file

Chobani CEO Hamdi Ulukaya embraces an employee at the Twin Falls factory in April 2016, following the announcement of Chobani Shares.

Johannes Arlt

Twin Falls was in the New York Times again today, this time for an article on how Chobani has become a focus of ire for some right-wing media and opponents of refugee resettlement.

The Greek yogurt giant, which runs what is said to be the biggest yogurt factory in the world in Twin Falls, is owned by Hamdi Ulukaya, who was born in Turkey and moved to New York in the 1990s, starting his company there and opening a factory in Twin Falls a few years ago. As well as coming from a Muslim background himself, Ulukaya has been involved in efforts to help refugees worldwide, and many of the employees at his Twin Falls plant are refugees.

The article, by the Times’ David Gelles, talks about some of the coverage of Chobani and refugees by Breitbart and other right-wing online outlets, and includes a couple of quotes from Twin Falls Mayor Shawn Barigar:

“Soon the mayor of Twin Falls, Shawn Barigar, found himself at the center of a conspiracy theory.

“’It got woven into a narrative that it’s all a cover-up, that we’re all trying to keep the refugees safe so that Chobani has its work force, that I personally am getting money from the Obama administration to help Chobani hire whoever they want, that it’s part of this Islamification of the United States,’ he said. ‘It’s crazy.’

“As the online comments escalated this summer, Mr. Barigar and his wife received death threats.”

Many (if not most) of the threats referenced in the article poured in after the story came out about a 5-year-old girl who was, authorities have said, sexually assaulted at the Fawnbrook Apartments in June by three boys from refugee families. City officials and law enforcement didn’t disclose anything publicly initially, as they normally don’t in cases involving underaged suspects, but were pushed to talk about it after the story got traction on anti-Islamic and anti-refugee resettlement blogs that accused them of trying to cover the incident up.


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