TORONTO — Tom Cruise raised some eyebrows Friday when he praised Wal-Mart as a “role model” at a gathering of shareholders in Fayetteville, Arkansas.
Reading from TelePrompTers, Cruise said Wal-Mart is “using its size and scale to improve women’s lives across the world.”
The company is facing class-action lawsuits filed by women in Tennessee, Texas and California alleging gender discrimination when it comes to pay and promotions.
While not referring to the legal claims against Wal-Mart (which have not been proven in court) Cruise defended the company. “Women make a difference to this company, not only as customers but as associates.”
On Twitter, @beantownzgirl scoffed at Cruise’s comments. “I was part time working full time hours no benefits,” she wrote.
Cruise stumbled slightly on his remarks about hunger.
“A great many people in America — and this is very hard to believe — they have little food to eat. Little too much food. They do not have enough food.”
He praised Wal-Mart for making affordable, healthy food widely available.
But critics point to reports — including one from the U.S. House Committee on Education and the Workforce — suggesting the retailer’s low wages drive as many as one-quarter of its employees to public assistance.
In California, lawmakers have proposed hefty fines against the company for each full-time employee who ends up on the state’s Medicaid program.
Cruise, who was introduced by Hugh Jackman, said he admired Wal-Mart. “The culture that you have going here is really like no other,” he said. “All around the globe, Wal-Mart is taking the lead in making a difference and that’s something I really admire.”
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