U-turn

Hallmark Channel CEO now says pulling same-sex ads was “wrong decision”

The Zola advert that prompted the Hallmark Channel controversy
The Zola advert that prompted the controversy (Photo: Zola)

The CEO of Crown Media, parent company of Hallmark Channel, has apologized for the network pulling adverts which feature a same-sex couple marrying.

The US network pulled the adverts by wedding planners Zola on Friday, bowing to pressure from One Millions Moms and religious groups who started petitions to complain about the ads. The decision prompted a huge backlash.

Hallmark CEO Mike Perry issued a statement to the Hollywood Reporter Sunday saying, “The Crown Media team has been agonizing over this decision as we’ve seen the hurt it has unintentionally caused.

“Said simply, they believe this was the wrong decision. Our mission is rooted in helping all people connect, celebrate traditions and be inspired to capture meaningful moments in their lives. Anything that detracts from this purpose is not who we are.

“We are truly sorry for the hurt and disappointment this has caused. … Across our brand, we will continue to look for ways to be more inclusive and celebrate our differences.”

Related: Hallmark Channel bows down to conservatives & drop Zola ads featuring lesbian brides

Hallmark Channel is known for screening mainstream movies and holiday entertainment suitable for all ages. Its movies tend to avoid issues deemed controversial.

However, many LGBTQ people welcomed a recent comment from Bill Abbott, CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, Hallmark’s parent company. In a Hollywood Reporter podcast in November, he was asked it the channel had had any discussions about including same-sex couples in its Christmas stories.

He responded, “We’re open to really any type of movie of any type of relationship.”

This was followed two weeks ago by the network beginning to air a campaign for the wedding planner company, Zola. In the adverts, a same-sex couple wed and demonstrate all the ways the brand has helped.

However, shortly after the adverts began airing, right-wing pressure group One Million Moms complained. It encouraged its followers to sign a petition to register their disgust.

“Please reconsider airing commercials with same-sex couples, and please do not add LGBT movies to the Hallmark Channel,” the group said. “Such content goes against Christian and conservative values that are important to your primary audience. You will lose viewers if you cave to the LBGT agenda.”

Lifesite, a Christian site, also made its disapproval clear.

Related: Homophobic group ‘One Million Moms’ selects its latest enemy… Hallmark movies

The complaints worked: Hallmark swiftly decided to drop the adverts.

In a statement Saturday, the network said, “Crown Media Family Networks made the decision to pull the commercials. The debate surrounding these commercials on all sides was distracting from the purpose of our network, which is to provide entertainment value.”

Although pulling these specific adverts, it intended to air two other Zola adverts that did not feature a same-sex couple.

Zola was quick to respond, issuing a statement Saturday announcing it was pulling all its advertising from Hallmark Channel.

“The only difference between the commercials that were flagged and the ones that were approved was that the commercials that did not meet Hallmark’s standards included a lesbian couple kissing,” said Mike Chi, Zola’s chief marketing officer. “Hallmark approved a commercial where a heterosexual couple kissed.

“All kisses, couples and marriages are equal celebrations of love and we will no longer be advertising on Hallmark.”

Yesterday, it appeared even Netflix was wading in on the controversy. Its official US Twitter account posted two images of movies featuring lesbians, with the comment: “Titles Featuring Lesbians Joyfully Existing And Also It’s Christmas Can We Just Let People Love Who They Love.”

It prompted a response from Zola’s official Twitter account, lamenting the fact Netflix didn’t carry adverts.

“The only time we wish you had commercials! #loveislove”

Among those to criticize Hallmark Channel were GLAAD and other LGBTQ campaign groups, the advert’s director, Lauren Slick, Ellen DeGeneres, and actor William Shatner.

Hallmark’s U-turn was welcomed by GLAAD. Its President, Sarah Kate Ellis, said in a statement, “The Hallmark Channel’s decision to correct its mistake sends an important message to LGBTQ people and represents a major loss for fringe organizations, like One Million Moms, whose sole purpose is to hurt families like mine.

“LGBTQ people are, and will continue to be a part of advertisements and family programming and that will never change. GLAAD exists to hold brands like The Hallmark Channel accountable when they make discriminatory decisions and to proactively ensure families of all kinds are represented in fair and accurate ways.”