Lowe's Stands By Decision To Yank Ads

Lowe's is planning to stick by its decision to yank its ads from a reality TV show about American Muslims despite the growing opposition the home improvement chain is facing over the move.

California Sen. Ted Lieu put a statement out on Sunday that he is considering calling for a boycott of Lowe's Cos., sparking criticism of the chain from leaders in the Muslim community.

On social media web site Twitter, actor Kal Penn is 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.

On Monday, Minnesota State Representative Keith Ellison, who is Muslim, released a statement condemning Lowe's Cos. 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 (tuh-LAIB) of Detroit, the first Muslim elected to the Michigan Legislature, voiced her concerns directly to the company: She wrote 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."

Meanwhile, Lowe's, based in Mooresville, N.C., stood by its Sunday statement that it pulled the advertising after the show became a "lightning rod for people to voice complaints from a variety of perspectives - political, social and otherwise" and says "dozens" of other advertisers also pulled their advertising from the show.

"All-American Muslim" premiered last month and chronicles the lives of five families who live in and near Dearborn, Mich., a Detroit suburb with a large Muslim and Arab-American population. Proponents of the show, which airs on Monday on TLC, say it portrays regular Muslim families living in the U.S.

TLC spokeswoman Laurie Goldberg said "All-American Muslim," which ends its first season on Jan. 8, has garnered a little over a million viewers per week. "We stand behind the show All American Muslim and we're happy the show has strong advertising support," she said.

Lowe's stopped running commercials during "All-American Muslim" after a conservative group known as the Florida Family Association e-mailed advertisers to ask them to stop advertising on the show.

The group said the program, which follows the lives of Muslim families living in the Metro Detroit area, was "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., claims that more than 60 advertisers that it e-mailed, from Amazon to McDonalds, have also stopped advertising on the show. But so far Lowe's is the only major company to confirm they pulled their ads from the show.

Amazon and McDonald's and other advertisers did not immediately return calls seeking comment.

Meanwhile, Atlanta-based Home Depot, which was cited by Florida Family Association as an advertiser who stopped advertising, said Monday they never intended to run any ads during the show, but one commercial ran "inadvertently and without our knowledge," according to spokesman Stephen Holmes.

The controversy highlights the fine line companies must 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, Lowe's ad flap comes at a particularly difficult time for Muslims in in the Metro Detroit area.

Florida pastor Terry Jones held an anti-Islam rally earlier this year outside Dearborn City Hall after being barred from protesting outside a Muslim mosque in the city. A burning of the 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."

(Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Previous Story

Lowe's home improvement stores have pulled ads from a reality TV show about American Muslims following protests from an evangelical Christian group, prompting talk of a boycott against the chain.

The retail giant stopped advertising on TLC's "All-American Muslim" after the Florida Family Association complained it was propaganda that hides Islam's "clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values."

Suehaila Amen, whose family is featured on "All-American Muslim," said she was disappointed Lowe's "would succumb to bigots ... "

Lowe's issued a statement Sunday apologizing for having "managed to make some people very unhappy." It didn't say whether it would reinstate the advertising.

California state Sen. Ted Lieu says he's considering a boycott of the chain and legislative action if the company doesn't reverse its decision.

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