International,  Stateside

Right wing bloggers force Dunkin to pull ‘Jihadi’ ad

Friendly fire it isn’t. Dunkin Donuts has got itself into a sticky mess all of its own making after pulling an ad starring US TV chef and talkshow host Rachael Ray because she is wearing an Arab keffiyeh scarf favoured by terrorists and kids the world over.

Dunkin’ Donuts got spooked after right-wing bloggers threatened to boycott the company and, like some one had stepped on one of its not so tasty donuts it caved in like…well a thing that caves in really quickly. It should have held firm and ridden it out, but folded after Pam Geller let loose under the headline “Rachel Ray: Dunkin Donuts Jihad Tool”.

You have to laugh if you’ve seen one of these ads as she is one of those factory-ready absurdly cheerful types that inhabit daytime TV and is clearly no more a tool of suicide-friendly Islamic terrorists than Mickey Mouse.

The “controversial ad” appeared earlier this month and the steam has been rising ever since – beginning with Geller who accused Ray of wearing the “icon of Yasser Arafatbastard and the bloody Islamic jihad” and said it was part of a “cultural jihad”.

The case was picked up by rightwing bulwark and Fox News commentator Michelle Malkin, who wrote on her websitethat the keffiyeh “has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad. Popularized by Yasser Arafat and a regular adornment of Muslim terrorists appearing in beheading and hostage-taking videos, the apparel has been mainstreamed by both ignorant (and not so ignorant) fashion designers, celebrities and left-wing icons”.

She isn’t wrong – that is all true and we have all seen enough grainy videos and we have been reading about them again today on the anniversary of five Britons being taken hostage in Baghdad. But the scarf Ray wore was selected by a stylist, as that’s where we’re at these days. It has graduated from the West Bank and student activists to your average London teenager. Even I have one (I was in Jordan, it seemed the thing to do) and I wore in the winter as it is so warm and while I might be to the left of the political spectrum I’m also pro-war in Iraq/Afghanistan and have always been a supporter of Israel.

Margie Myers, senior VP-communications for Dunkin’ Brands, said in a statement: “In a recent online ad, Rachael Ray is wearing a black-and-white silk scarf with a paisley design. It was selected by the stylist for the advertising shoot. Absolutely no symbolism was intended. However, as of this past weekend, we are no longer using the online ad because the possibility of misperception detracted from its original intention to promote our iced coffee.”

It is a non-story as Ray’s publicist Charlie Dougiello has written, but it is also a story as it underlines the insecurity we all feel currently in this climate where two wars are still being fought and that scarf is a symbol of that as well as being a fashion statement.

To be honest more of a worry is that Ray who is known best for her cooking shows on the Food Network, ’30 Minute Meals’ and ‘Rachael Ray’s Tasty Travels’, signed up as the spokeswoman of Donuts in the first place.

Celebrity chef and travel writer Anthony Bourdain has lambasted Ray’s affiliation with Dunkin’ Donuts as “evil” and like “endorsing crack for kids”.

Bet she is regretting it now.