When images of President Barack Obama kissing Venezuelan president Hugo Chavez sprung up all over the Internet, we couldn’t believe our eyes. After some searching, we could relax; the photo is actually part of a new ad campaign by the United Colors of Benetton, and was expertly digitally manipulated. The campaign, which features other images of world leaders locking lips, has fueled much controversy.
Benetton’s message through the campaign is “UNHATE” and, according to Fox News Latino, the Italian company’s head Alessandro Benetton said it is about “reconciliation and acceptance.” “We are going back to the tradition of [Benetton] and will make the most of this,” Benetton told the Independent newspaper. “But we are reconciling the past with the future. At this time, when something bad is happening in the world, we want to focus people's eyes on the positives.”
The fashion brand’s message caused much anger from the Vatican, who is reportedly taking legal action against a fabricated image of Pope Benedict XVI kissing a top Egyptian imam on the lips. The Vatican described the ad as “offensive not only to the dignity of the pope and the Catholic Church, but also to the sensibilities of believers.”
As for the image of Obama and Chavez kissing passionately, Tr3s reports that the White House has already responded against it. “The White House has a longstanding policy disapproving of the use of the president's name and likeness for commercial purposes,” said Eric Schultz, a spokesperson for the White House.
In defense of the company’s ad campaign, Benetton said that the images of the political and religious leaders lip-locking were “symbolic images of reconciliation.”
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