A provocative new ad campaign by Italian clothing-maker Benetton has drawn White House scorn for its unauthorized use of President Obama’s likeness – which is seen engaging in a kiss with Chinese President Hu Jintao.
The image, which has appeared on posters and in storefronts around the world, is one of several in the company’s “Unhate” campaign that features world leaders locking lips with adversaries, often of the same sex.
“The White House has a longstanding policy disapproving of the use of the president’s name and likeness for commercial purposes,” said White House spokesman Eric Schultz in an email.
In another rendition, Obama is shown smooching with Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez. The campaign also features fictitious depictions of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kissing Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas, French President Nicolas Sarkozy and German Chancellor Angela Merkel touching lips.
Benetton withdrew an image of Pope Benedict XVI and a top Egyptian imam kissing after the Vatican threatened to sue, according to the Associated Press.
Schultz declined to say whether the administration has contacted Benetton to ask the company to take down the Obama images.
In January 2010, the White House appealed to the Weatherproof Garment Company to take down a Times Square billboard that featured a photo of Obama in one of the company’s jackets. The company later complied.
In an email blast to reporters, the pro-Republican outside group American Crossroads pointed out that the Obama campaign currently sells merchandise in its online store featuring Obama’s likeness, including a graphic t-shirt emblazoned with Obama’s face for $30.