A candid comment made by the head of the world's largest pasta company during an interview on one of Italy's top radio networks has prompted a world-wide boycott of the company's products by homosexuals activists.
During an interview September 25 on Italy's Radio 24, Guido Barilla, chairman of the pasta and Italian food giant Barilla Group, said that his company would never feature a family headed by a same-sex couple in any of its advertising.
For years the company, whose pasta is one of the most popular worldwide, has used an ad campaign that features an ideal and happy family living in a pristine Italian countryside, along with the brand slogan: “Where there's Barilla, there's home.”
When asked about the company's possible inclusion of a “gay” family in its advertising, the 55-year-old Barilla bluntly answered that he would never allow an ad featuring a “homosexual family,” reported the Italian news agency ANSA — “not out of a lack of respect,“ Barilla emphasized, but because I do not see it like they do. My idea of family is a classic family where the woman has a fundamental role.”
When the show's host pointed out that homosexuals purchase and eat pasta, Barilla responded, “if gays like our pasta and our advertisings, they will eat our pasta. But if they don’t they can eat someone else’s pasta.”
Guido Barilla and his brothers, Luca and Paolo, represent the fourth generation running the 136-year-old family-owned company. “I respect everyone who does what they want to do without bothering others,” the spaghetti company head said, according to news reports. He added that while he had no problem with same-sex "marriage," “I have no respect for adoption by gay families because this concerns a person who is not able to choose.” He said that as a father, “I believe it's very hard to raise kids in a same-sex family.”
Barilla's comments prompted a predictable firestorm of protest from homosexual activist groups, beginning in his native Italy. According to Reuters News, Aurelio Mancuso of Equality Italia termed Barilla's comments an “offensive provocation” and called for homosexuals and their fellow-travelers to boycott the company's products. “We accept the invitation from the Barilla owner to not eat his pasta,” said Mancuso.
Alessandro Zan, a homosexual member of Italy's parliament, got in on the action, Twittering, “Here we have another example of homophobia, Italian style,” and, “You can't mess around with consumers, including gay ones."
It wasn't long before America's homosexual contingent followed their European counterparts. USA Today reported that the group Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD) were planning to pressure U.S. supermarket chains to speak out against Barilla, according to GLAAD spokesman Rich Ferraro. “Ferraro said GLAAD had also e-mailed Barilla an invitation to meet with LGBT community members 'and get to know how traditional we really are,'” reported USA Today.
Meanwhile, Ferraro's mother launched a petition drive on Change.org in an attempt to pressure her local grocer to drop Barilla products from their shelves. Linda Ferraro recalls the day her son cried at the family dinner table as he informed her that he was a homosexual. “Even though my sons are adults now,” Mother Ferraro writes on the petition site, “no one messes with any of my boys. I shop at Stop & Shop, and now that I dumped Barilla, I think they should, too. Please join me and urge Stop & Shop to take Barilla off their shelves.”
The concerted attack by homosexuals apparently unnerved the Barilla head. Within days of his comments Guido Barilla took to the company's Facebook page to issue a mea culpa over the uproar. “I apologize if my words have led to misunderstandings or controversy, and have bumped the sensibilities of some people,” wrote a penitent Barilla. “I have the utmost respect for homosexuals and for freedom of expression by anyone. I also said and repeat that I respect marriages between persons of the same sex. Barilla in its advertising has always chosen to represent the family because this is a symbol of welcome … for all.”
That post was followed up quickly by an even more heartfelt video apology from Barilla in which he promised to meet with homosexual activist leaders. “I have heard the countless reactions around the world to my words, which have impressed and saddened me,” said Barilla. “It is clear that I have a lot to learn about the lively debate concerning the evolution of the family. In the coming weeks I pledge to meet with representatives of the groups that best represent the evolution of the family, including those who have been offended by my words.”
Barilla's U.S. company, concerned about about the possible impact of a boycott by America's homosexuals, issued its own apology, noting that while it couldn't “undo” the remarks of its namesake, “we can apologize. To all of our friends, family, employees, and partners that we have hurt or offended, we are deeply sorry.”
At least one Italian voice has defended Barilla for taking a stand — albeit weak and compromised — for the traditional family. Conservative journalist Eugenia Roccella called Barilla a “brave man,” for his short-live stand, saying that it “takes courage to defend the family consisting of a man and a woman and maybe even ‘founded on marriage,’ as it is written in our Constitution.” She said that the gay-inspired boycott “shows how well-founded the fears are for freedom of expression” in her country.