Lowe’s Stands by Decision to Pull Ads from Muslim Show

Lowe's Home improvement chain Lowe’s plans
to stick by its decision to yank its ads from a reality TV show about
American Muslims amid growing debate over the move.

California Sen. Ted Lieu said Sunday that he is considering calling
for a boycott of Lowe’s Cos., sparking criticism of the chain from both
inside and outside of the Muslim community.

On social media web
site Twitter, actor Kal Penn began directing people to a petition on
signon.org in support of the TLC cable network show, “All-American
Muslim.” By Monday afternoon, there were about 9,200 signatures.

U.S. Representative Keith Ellison of Minnesota, who is Muslim,
released a statement Monday condemning Lowe’s for choosing “to uphold
the beliefs of a fringe hate group and not the creed of the First
Amendment.”

And Democratic state Rep. Rashida Tlaib of Detroit,
the first Muslim elected to the Michigan Legislature, voiced her concern
in a letter to Lowe’s CEO Robert Niblock.

“I told them I was
extremely disappointed that you give credibility to these hate groups,”
Tlaib said. “People of Muslim faith are being attacked. It’s
disappointing, disheartening.”

Lowe’s, based in Mooresville, N.C.,
said it stands by its statement on Sunday that it pulled the ads after
the show became a “lightning rod for people to voice complaints from a
variety of perspectives – political, social and otherwise.”

“All-American
Muslim,” which premiered last month, chronicles the lives of five
families who live in and near Dearborn, Mich., a Detroit suburb with a
large Muslim and Arab-American population. It airs Sundays on TLC and
ends its first season Jan. 8.

TLC spokeswoman Laurie Goldberg said the show has garnered a little over a million viewers per week.

“We stand behind the show ‘All-American Muslim,'” she said. “We’re happy the show has strong advertising support.”

Lowe’s
stopped its commercials after a conservative group known as the Florida
Family Association emailed companies to ask them to do so. The group
said the program is “propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda’s
clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values.”

Florida
Family Association, based in Tampa, Fla., said that more than 60
companies that it emailed, from Amazon to McDonalds, pulled their ads.
So far, Lowe’s is the only major company to confirm that it pulled ads
from the show.

Amazon, McDonald’s and other advertisers did not immediately return calls from The Associated Press seeking comment.

Atlanta-based
Home Depot, which was cited by Florida Family Association as a company
that stopped advertising, said Monday that it never intended to run any
ads during the show. But spokesman Stephen Holmes said one commercial
ran “inadvertently and without our knowledge.”

The controversy highlights the fine line companies walk when they select shows to advertise on.

Branding
expert Laura Ries said Lowe’s made two mistakes. The first was
advertising during a show that could be construed as controversial. The
second was pulling advertising too quickly.

“For a big national
brand like Lowe’s, they’ve always got to be incredibly careful when
advertising during any show that could be deemed controversial,” she
said. “Will it seriously damage the brand in the long term? Probably
not. But it is a serious punch in the stomach.”

Overall, analysts said the furor is unlikely to damage Lowe’s brand in the long term.

“For
a company that generates $50 billion in annual revenue, I don’t view
this as something that will have a meaningful impact,” said Morningstar
analyst Peter Wahlstrom. “I’m hopeful this blows over and I’m certain
management is as well.”

Still, some worry Lowe’s ad flap could
hurt Muslims, particularly those among the 150,000 to 200,000 who live
in the Detroit area. Earlier this year, Florida pastor Terry Jones held
an anti-Islam rally outside Dearborn City Hall after being barred from
protesting outside a Muslim mosque in the city.

The burning of a
Quran in March at Jones’ church in Florida led to a series of violent
protests in Afghanistan that killed more than a dozen people.

“Metro
Detroit and Dearborn have been the focal point of a number of
anti-Muslim movements,” said Dawud Walid, executive director of Council
on American-Islamic Relations’ Michigan chapter. “There are organized
forces in our society that want to marginalize American Muslims to the
point where they don’t want to see any portrayals of Muslims that
regular Americans can connect to.”

Source: Mae Anderson, The Associated Press

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