After stating that he would never feature a gay person in ads for Barilla pasta, adding that gays can just eat another brand, Guido Barilla has been on an apology tour. The initial apologies did not sit well with those who had been offended by his original anti-gay comments. This time, he's going for video. In his most recent statement, Guido is trying new strategies: listening and learning.
The pasta company's chairman announced during a radio interview on Wednesday that he never planned to feature gay families in advertisements, and encouraged such consumers to buy a different brand. During the same interview, he spoke against adoption by gay parents. By Thursday, Guido had issued a "clarification" that only made things worse. He seemed to be all talk and no action, as the company indicated no plans to become LGBT-friendly, retractions of previous statements, nor a true understanding of why his comments were received as sexist and anti-gay.
According to Friday's video, which features Guido speaking directly to camera, he now acknowledges that he has "a lot to learn about the lively debate concerning the evolution of the family." As a result, Guido told viewers, "In the coming weeks, I pledge to meet representatives of the groups that best represent the evolution of the family, including those who have been offended by my words."
"I have heard the countless reactions around the world to my words," said Guido.
The urgency for continued activism has not faded. Thousands of people continue to sign a Connecticut mom's petition for grocery stores to drop anti-gay brands, as well as a call for Barilla to enact LGBT-inclusive policies for their employees. Open dialogue is an extremely important first step for Barilla, but it should not be the last.
Barilla is learning the hard way that bigotry is bad for business. Bertolli has enjoyed marketing success for years from advertising to LGBT consumers, and Buitoni has come out in favor of equality as well. Exxon Mobil made a splash, too, when they decided to extend benefits to US employees' same-sex spouses. Here are some other pro-LGBT responses to Barilla, courtesy of The New Civil Rights Movement. Read about more companies who keep homophobia off your dinner table here.
We hope Barilla listens closely as they go forward with their pledge and that advocates for the LGBT community keep making their voices heard.