Is Barilla the new Chick-fil-A? If rhetoric and reaction are any indication, then it's quite possible that a comparison between the two may soon be warranted. While the furor over Guido Barilla, 55, the pasta company's chairman, hasn't quite hit a fever-pitch yet, it's headed that way.
Calls for a massive boycott are already abounding, as gay and lesbian activists voice outrage over the businessman's recent comments about not placing same-sex couples in company advertisements. So, where did all this drama originate?
On Wednesday, Barilla told Radio 24, an Italian radio station, about his views on both family and homosexuality.
"I would never do [a commercial] with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect but because we don't agree with them," he said, according to Reuters. "Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role."
Photo Credit: Frank Augsteinb/AP
The advertising comment was made after he was specifically asked whether the pasta company will ever feature a gay couple. His frank response is obviously riling critics. The Guardian has another version of some of the comments that were uttered on-air:
"For us the concept of the sacred family remains one of the basic values of the company," he told Italian radio on Wednesday evening. "I would not do it but not out of a lack of respect for homosexuals who have the right to do what they want without bothering others … [but] I don't see things like they do and I think the family that we speak to is a classic family."
Asked what effect he thought his attitude would have on gay consumers of pasta, Barilla said: "Well, if they like our pasta and our message they will eat it; if they don't like it and they don't like what we say they will … eat another."
In the same interview (read it here, but you'll need to translate it from Italian), Barilla said he also opposes gay adoption but is in favor of legalizing same-sex marriage (it's currently not legal in Italy, as Reuters notes).
On Thursday, in an effort to clarify and apologize, the company put out a release, noting that a woman's role is essential to the family and that this was the point Barilla was trying to make.
"I’m sorry if my comments on La Zanzara have created misunderstanding or polemic, or if I’ve offended anyone. In the interview I only wanted to underline the central role of the woman in the family," The Independent quotes today's apology as reading.
Here's the full text that was posted on the Barilla Group website:
With reference to remarks made yesterday to an Italian radio program, I apologize if my words have generated controversy or misunderstanding, or if they hurt someone’s sensitivity.
For clarity, I would like to point out that:
- I have the utmost respect for anyone, without distinction of any kind.
- I have the utmost respect for gay people and for everyone’s right to express themselves.
- I’ve also said -- and I would like to reiterate -- that I respect gay marriages.
- In its advertising, Barilla represents the family - because it’s what welcomes everyone.
What has followed, though, is a boycott -- and its international. People are taking to Twitter, using hashtags #boicottabarilla and #boycottbarilla in an effort to display their angst over the businessman's ban on gay ads. Here are just a few comments worth sharing:
Barilla's statements certainly mirror those made by Chick-fil-A president Dan Cathy in 2012, when the businessman said in an interview that he's not a supporter of same-sex marriage. What followed was a massive boycott and a counter protest that dominated headlines.
Will the same happen with Barilla? We'll have to wait and see.
(H/T: The Independent)