Outraged consumers are calling for a boycott of pasta-maker Barilla's products after the company's chairman said he would not feature same-sex couples in advertisements because the brand prefers the "classic family" image.
Guido Barilla told an Italian radio station Wednesday, "For us the concept of the sacred family remains one of the basic values of the company. I would not do it but not out of a lack of respect for homosexuals who have the right to do what they want without bothering others … [but] I don't see things like they do and I think the family that we speak to is a classic family."
When asked how he thought his views might affect gay consumers, Barilla responded, "Well, if they like our pasta and our message they will eat it; if they don't like it and they don't like what we say, they will … eat another."
And eat another many say they will do, indeed.
The comments sparked outrage in Italy. The hashtag #boicotta-barilla was trending on Twitter within a matter of hours — and it wasn't long before word of the controversy spread to the U.S.
Consumers have taken to Twitter to call for a boycott of Barilla over the chairman's comments, which many are insisting are homophobic. The company has made several attempts to apologize for the remarks, but it has done little to quell the firestorm.
"I apologize if my words generated misunderstandings or arguments, or if they offended the sensibilities of some people," Guido Barilla later said.
The Facebook page of Barilla U.S. posted this message:
At Barilla, we consider it our mission to treat our consumers and partners as our neighbors – with love and respect – and to deliver the very best products possible. We take this responsibility seriously and consider it a core part of who we are as a family-owned company. While we can’t undo recent remarks, we can apologize. To all of our friends, family, employees, and partners that we have hurt or offended, we are deeply sorry.
"No apologizes necessary, it is regrettable an organization is ridiculed for their personal family beliefs," Facebook user James Steve Ledbetter said. "I'm sure the CEO was placed in a position to respond to questions that provoked his personal beliefs on family values — I agree and personally respect the boldness and commitment in his family values. I always have and will continue to support these values and the Barilla organization, Thank you, a loyal consumer and supporter of Barilla! May God continue to Bless and Protect you and the Barilla Organization."
On Twitter, calls for a boycott of Barilla were still going strong Friday morning, while others continued to defend the company.