A national animal rights group today apologized to New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani and withdrew an anti-milk billboard campaign over which the mayor had threatened to sue.
Giuliani, who has prostate cancer, said earlier this week he was considering suing People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) over the advertisement that depicted the mayor with a milk mustache next to the caption: “Got Prostate Cancer? Drinking milk contributes to prostate cancer.”
The ad was a parody of the dairy industry’s “Got Milk?” campaign.
“We hope you will accept our apology for any distress that PETA’s billboard campaign may have caused you,” said PETA President Ingrid Newkirk in a letter to Giuliani that announced the group was withdrawing the campaign.
“The effort was not intended as an attack on you, and we’re sorry it was taken that way.”
A spokeswoman for the mayor’s office said that to the best of her knowledge the mayor had not received or seen the letter.
PETA did not receive Giuliani’s permission to use his image for the advertising campaign. In fact, the famously combative mayor has gone out of his way recently to extol the virtues of drinking milk, which PETA claims raises the risk of getting prostate cancer.
According to The American Cancer Society, it is not completely understood what causes prostate cancer, which kills thousands of men in the United States each year, but the risk increases in men who eat a lot of fatty foods and not enough fruits and vegetables.
PETA spokesman Bruce Friedrich told Reuters the mayor’s threat of a lawsuit was not behind the apology.
“I think if Mayor Giuliani felt he had a case, he would have announced a lawsuit by now,” Friedrich said. “In reality it had nothing to do with a lawsuit.”
On Monday PETA threatened to sue a Wisconsin advertising company for removing the billboards without its permission.
Newkirk’s letter said PETA “will not sue those companies who took down the ad in violation of our contracts.”
Friedrich said he hoped the ad company would honor its contract by placing an anti-veal advertisement (featuring a calf) to replace the Giuliani ads.