Sun-Times: Backlash over Lowe’s pulling ads from Muslim show

http://www.suntimes.com/business/9421274-420/backlash-over-lowes-pulling-ads-from-muslim-show.html

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Protests over new TLC reality show All-American Muslim won’t take it off the air — but might help boost its modest ratings.

The Lowe’s home improvement chain last week pulled its advertising from the series, following a campaign waged by the Florida Family Association, a small conservative group.

Lowe’s said the show has become too much of a “lightning rod,” and has stuck by its decision. But a backlash has grown among Muslim groups, elected officials and celebrities.

“It’s a stupid decision morally and a stupid decision economically,” said Ahmed Rehab, executive director of the Council on Islamic-American Relations Chicago. “They need to acknowledge their error and that they got duped by right-wing bigots, apologize and resume their ads.”

Lowe’s has 20 stores in the Chicago area.

One, hip-hop mogul Russell Simmons, offered Tuesday to buy any unsold spots to promote his Visa Rush Card.

“A lot of advertisers pull out of shows all the time without any backlash,” says analyst Brad Adgate of ad firm Horizon Media. They’re “sensitive, particularly in this era where viewers have access to social media,” but “from a PR perspective it probably backfired.”

The show has not proved a hit, even by TLC standards, and could use the attention stoked by the controversy. Sunday’s episode drew 908,000 viewers, down from the 1.7 million who tuned in for its Nov. 13 premiere. “We stand behind the show and still have strong advertising support,” says network spokesman Laurie Goldberg.

The eight-episode series looks at life through several families in Dearborn, Mich., with one of the largest Muslim communities in the country. The series shows them in such roles as a high-school football coach and a party planner, and tackles issues including assimilation, interfaith marriage and conversion, women and careers, the wearing of women’s head covering and society’s view of their heritage and religion.

“This is our opportunity to show the world that we’re just (like) any other American family, but we embrace our faith and our culture differently than what people may view as the norm,” participant Suehaila Amen said last August, describing her interest in appearing in the show. The finale airs Jan. 8.

Florida Family claimed the show was “propaganda clearly designed to counter legitimate and present-day concerns about many Muslims who are advancing Islamic fundamentalism.”

But Lowe’s clearly did not expect the outcry. “It appears that we managed to step into a hotly contested debate with strong views from virtually every angle and perspective,” the company said. “We believe it is best to respectfully defer to communities, individuals and groups to discuss and consider such issues of importance.”

Florida Family founder David Caton, who has also protested Disney World’s “gay days” and NBC’s Playboy Club, told AP his mission was to “defend traditional American biblical values.” Monday, hackers disabled the group’s site.

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