OMAHA, Neb., May 5 (Reuters) - Billionaire Warren Buffett on Saturday defended his earlier remark that it would be “ridiculous” for the conglomerate not to do business with gun manufacturers, noting that he does not want to impose his political views on Berkshire’s investment decisions or business operations.
During the traditional Q&A session at Berkshire Hathaway’s annual meeting, a shareholder challenged Buffett on his refusal to pressure Berkshire subsidiaries to divest from gun-related businesses.
Following the Feb. 14 school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, Buffett told CNBC: “I don’t believe in imposing my views on 370,000 employees and a million shareholders. I’m not their nanny on that.”
“Please tell us you misspoke,” the questioner asked, via an email read to Buffett by New York Times journalist Andrew Ross Sorkin.
Buffett did not back away from his stance.
“I do not believe on imposing my political opinions on the activities of our businesses,” Buffett said, drawing applause from the admittedly pro-free-market crowd. “I don’t think that we should have a question on the GEICO policyholder form, ‘are you an NRA member?,’ you know, if you are, you just aren’t good enough for us.”
Buffett added: “If you get into which of our companies are pure and which ones aren’t pure, I think it will be very difficult.”
Buffett reminded the audience that he was an outspoken fundraiser and supporter of Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton during the 2016 election.
However, he said, “At the parent company level, we have never made a political contribution.” (Reporting by Jennifer Ablan and Trevor Hunnicutt; editing by Jonathan Oatis)