Travel website Kayak.com will remove all advertising from TLC's new reality-TV program "All American Muslim" days after an outcry over a similar decision by home improvement retailer Lowe's tore across the Internet.
A Kayak.com spokesman says that it has not pulled advertising from the program because of protests and backlash from conservative groups, including the Florida Family Association, but because TLC was "not up front about the nature of this show."
The TLC reality-TV show focuses on the lives of five families in the greater-Detroit area. The conservative Florida Family Association organized an email campaign aimed at Lowe's to drop its ads from the show, calling it "propaganda that riskily hides the Islamic agenda's clear and present danger to American liberties and traditional values."
Robert Birge, Kayak's chief marketing officer, wrote a letter on the company's website Wednesday saying that he is deeply sorry that the company's decision comes across as bending to bigotry.
"It's a worthy topic, but any reasonable person would know that this topic is a particular lightning rod," Birge says in the letter. "We believe TLC went out of their way to pick a fight on this, and they didn't let us know their intentions. That's not a business practice that generally gets repeat business from us. I also believe that it did this subject a grave disservice. Sadly, TLC is now enjoying the attention from this controversy."
Birge said the company received hundreds of letters from people who he believes wrote from a template found on the Florida Family Association's website, and that the "amount of vitriol in the emails was saddening." He added that those who wrote to express disappointment in Kayak.com's advertising decision were much more civil.
He also said he viewed the first two episodes of "All-American Muslim" and "thought the show sucked."
In a statement Sunday, Lowe's had used language similar to Birge's, stating that it made the decision to remove ads from the show when it became a "lightning rod for people to voice complaints from a variety of perspectives -- political, social and otherwise."
After the controversy over Lowe's withdrawal of advertising, liberal advocacy group Moveon.org began a petition earlier this week asking major companies to "fight back against bigotry and fear-mongering by publicly repudiating calls to stop advertising during TLC's 'All-American Muslim.'"
The Florida Family Association has said that 75 companies that were targeted decided not to advertise again during the Dec. 11-12 episodes of "All-American Muslim."
The organization said it will no longer post the names of the companies that pull off the show because of intense scrutiny by opponents.
Many have now vowed never to shop at Lowe's again and called the company's behavior un-American. Lowe's has yet to comment on whether it will reinstate its ads on the show.