Campbell Executive Who Touted Migrant Conspiracy Is Departing

(Bloomberg) -- The Campbell Soup Co. executive who came under fire after spreading a conspiracy theory about investor George Soros on Twitter had previously been planning to leave the company and will depart in early November.

Kelly Johnston, vice president of government affairs at the soup maker since 2002, told Campbell in August that he would be leaving early next month, a spokesman for the company said.

The planned departure, which had not been previously announced, came to light late on Tuesday when Campbell’s interim chief executive officer, Keith McLoughlin, sent a letter to Open Society, the Soros-backed organization that Johnston accused on social media of providing “troop carriers and rail cars” to a so-called migrant caravan. McLoughlin said the remarks “are inconsistent with how Campbell approaches public debate.”

Read the letter from Campbell Soup here.

“We regret that this episode happened and has colored his service to us,” McLoughlin added, noting that Johnston “has represented us ably for many years.”

In addition to the tweet, Bloomberg News found public comments by Johnston on Facebook that discussed his belief that Open Society helped orchestrate the migrant caravan that is making its way to the U.S. In a comment on a 2015 Facebook post, Johnston compared gay marriage to polygamy. Campbell declined to comment beyond McLoughlin’s letter.

Soros has long been a target for conspiracy theorists who have accused him of bankrolling various plots around the world to influence governments and economies.

“Campbell believes in truth and transparency. We expect our leaders to present facts, to deal with objective truths and to exercise impeccable judgment,” McLoughlin said in the letter, sent before Bloomberg News requested comment on the Facebook posts. “Mr. Johnston’s remarks do not represent the position of Campbell.”

McLoughlin sent the letter to Open Society after its president, Patrick Gaspard, wrote to Campbell asking the company to take a stronger stance disavowing Johnston’s tweet. Campbell said Johnston was not available to comment.

The controversy comes as the struggling soup maker is embroiled in a proxy fight with activist investor Dan Loeb, who wants to replace the entire board.

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