WASHINGTON — One of the biggest US retailers faced charges of bigotry Monday after it bowed to pressure from a Christian group and stopped advertising on a reality TV show about Arab Americans.
Lowe’s, a national hardware chain, said it was among a number of sponsors to abandon “All-American Muslim,” which follows the daily lives of five suburban families of Arab heritage in Dearborn, Michigan.
“Individuals and groups have strong political and societal views on this topic, and this program became a lighting rod for many of those views,” it said in a statement on its Facebook page.
“As a result, we did pull our advertising on this program. We believe it is best to respectfully defer to communities, individuals and groups to discuss and consider such issues of importance.”
Its decision cheered the Florida Family Association, a little-known Christian group that upholds “traditional, biblical values” and campaigns against “immoral content” on television shows.
Through its website, it had encouraged supporters to fling emails at Lowe’s and other companies that bought advertising time on the ongoing series that premiered in November on the TLC cable channel.
“The show profiles only Muslims that appear to be ordinary folks while excluding many Islamic believers whose agenda poses a clear and present danger to liberties and traditional values that the majority of Americans cherish,” it said.
But over the weekend, with Christmas shoppers filling its stores, Lowe’s found itself in the crosshairs of Arab American and other groups, plus a legion of critics on Facebook and Twitter.
The American-Arab Anti-Discrimination Committee declared its own email campaign to target the retailer for succumbing to what it called the “idiocracy” of “garbage campaigns” waged by bigots and racists.
“At a time when many corporations are courting the American-Muslim market, it makes absolutely no sense at all that any corporation, including Lowe?s … would take such action,” its legal director Abed Ayoub said.
In California, where Lowe’s has dozens of outlets, state senator Ted Lieu threatened Lowe’s with a consumer boycott and unspecified “legislative remedies” over what he called its “bigoted, shameful and un-American” conduct.
“I call on Lowe?s to rescind its action and apologize to Americans who are Muslim,” he said.
Celebrities piled in via Twitter, with actress Mia Farrow denouncing “the cowardice of @Lowes” and “That ’70s Show” star Danny Masterson asking: “u r officially religious bigots.how does that feel?”
On its Facebook page, Lowe’s acknowledged the maelstrom it found itself in, without saying whether it would go back to advertising on “All-American Muslim.”
“It appears that we managed to step into a hotly contested debate with strong views from virtually every angle and perspective — social, political and otherwise — and we?ve managed to make some people very unhappy,” it said.
“We are sincerely sorry.”
But that remark prompted no less than 10,000 comments from both sides of the argument, from “I am SOOOO proud of Lowe’s for pulling the ads” to a succinct “disgusted by your actions.”
Hackers claiming to be part of the Internet activist group Anonymous meanwhile said they had penetrated Florida Family Association’s website and made off with email addresses and credit card details of its supporters.
For its part, the TLC network said: “We stand behind ‘All-American Muslim’ and we’re happy the show has strong advertising support.”
Photo credit: Ildar Sagdejev