Guido Barilla, the disgraced chairman of Barilla pasta who made international headlines for his antigay remarks last month, met with Italian LGBT associations yesterday in Bologna, northern Italy.
The company has suffered an onslaught of bad press and global boycotts after Mr. Barilla told a reporter: “I would never do [a commercial] with a homosexual family, not for lack of respect but because we don’t agree with them. Ours is a classic family where the woman plays a fundamental role.”
The comments sparked an international outcry. Mr. Barilla has been groveling ever since, issuing several apologizes, including a video apology in which he said he feels “depressed and saddened” by the situation he’s created.
On Monday, Mr. Barilla met with five different LGBT organizations: Arcigay, Arcilesbica, Famiglie Arcobaleno, Gaynet, and Equality Italia. The meeting was held at the Regione Emilia-Romagna headquarters, where former Arcigay president and now regional councillor Franco Grillini has his office.
In an interview with GayStarNews, Grillini said: “We spoke about the company’s policies and about the impact on the LGBT community worldwide. Mr. Barilla apologized once again and told us they are really worried for the boycotting in North America. The news had a big impact in the United States and they went to the U.S. last week to reinforce their presence in that country.”
He added that Barilla may feature LGBT people in future ads, though he’s not entirely certain.
“We have to meet again and to discuss their new ads,” Grillini said. “They’ll probably do something for our community. They have understood that LGBTs have a strong power.”
A strong power, indeed. And we’re not stupid either. Simply featuring LGBT people in future ads likely isn’t going to make people forgive and forget.
In an interview with USA Today, Rich Ferraro, GLAAD’s Vice President of Communications, suggested a solution of his own the pasta giant might consider: provide financial assistance to LGBT organizations in Italy, where the company is based.
“I think the public backlash shows that homophobia is bad for business today because we’re living in a world where LGBT people are respected and accepted,” Ferraro said. “That wasn’t the case five years ago.”
Barilla’s profits tumbled 21 percent in 2012. Those profits will no doubt fall even further after this scandal, which doesn’t seem to be going away any time soon.
While we appreciate Mr. Barilla’s efforts to smooth things over, we have to say: Now that we’ve switched to DeCecco, we kind of like them better.