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O'Reilly: Candy bar ad isn't anti-gay, just anti-speedwalker

by Nick Langewis

After a "victory" in the removal of a British mayonnaise commercial over its portrayal of a gay family, Fox News' Bill O'Reilly sat down once again with Truth Wins Out Executive Director and founder Wayne Besen to defend a recent ad for the Snickers candy bar that has received similar treatment.

The ad, made by AMV BBDO, the agency which also created the Heinz commercial in June, was pulled off the air after protest from Human Rights Campaign. "Following conversations between the Human Rights Campaign and senior Mars representatives," reads a July 24 statement, "the company has agreed to pull its most recent ad using stereotypes of gay men to sell its Snickers product line. HRC applauds Mars for taking swift and appropriate action."

"This ad is the second in a series of UK Snickers ads featuring Mr. T, which are meant to be fun and have been positively received in the UK," a spokesman for Mars Inc. said. "However, we understand that humour is highly subjective, and it is never our intention to cause offence. Accordingly, we have pulled the Mr. T speedwalker ad globally."

The ad celebrates bullying and sends the message that those who are "different" can be intimidated through violence to change, Besen contended. That's just the way society is, and if you're "different," you're going to be pushed around, O'Reilly countered.

In the ad, a "power-walking" man, whose hips and buttocks sway accordingly, is instructed to "walk like a real man" while being pelted with candy bars by his assailant, 1980s icon Mr. T, who deems the powerwalker a "disgrace to the man race."

"Get some nuts!" the commercial's slogan commands.

O'Reilly saw an anti-speedwalker, but not an anti-gay, overtone in the ad. Besen, however, found the message insidious. While not anti-gay on the surface, he said, "I think everyone knows that it was a reference to being gay, and it was offensive."

"On the face of it, it might not be," he continued, "but we have a situation right now where people across this country who are gay, especially young people, show up at school, they're beaten up. There's a huge industry out there to try to 'straighten people up'..."

The commercial was meant to be more humor than social engineering, O'Reilly countered, defending "sensitive" straight men he knows who could be classified as "metrosexuals," and he added that he didn't think people would assume the speedwalker was gay.

"I think any time Mr. T's in something, there's an element of it being funny," Besen said, "but...I have to be there with the hate crime victims and their parents...that's not funny."

A Snickers advertisement that aired in the United States in early 2007 has sparked similar controversy. The spot, aired during Super Bowl XLI, depicted two men driven to removing their chest hair in an effort to counter an accidental kiss by doing "something manly."

The entire exchange, broadcast on Fox News' The O'Reilly Factor on July 29, 2008, is available to view below. The 2007 Super Bowl ad follows.


Originally published on Wednesday July 30, 2008.

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