Benetton pulls ad featuring doctored photo of pope kissing imam
A Benetton ad in Paris featuring a doctored photo of the pope kissing a prominent imam.
November 16th, 2011
04:27 PM ET

Benetton pulls ad featuring doctored photo of pope kissing imam

By Dan Gilgoff, CNN.com Religion Editor

(CNN) - United Colors of Benetton announced Wednesday it is pulling an ad featuring a doctored picture of the pope kissing a male Muslim cleric on the same day the ad was unveiled in response to criticism.

The ad featured a fake picture of Pope Benedict XVI kissing Ahmed Mohamed el-Tayeb, imam of the Al-Azhar mosque, a prominent Muslim house of worship in Cairo, Egypt.

"We reiterate that the meaning of this campaign is exclusively to combat the culture of hatred in all its forms," Benetton said in a statement on Wednesday.

"We are therefore sorry that the use of the image of the pope and the imam has so offended the sentiments of the faithful,” the statement by the fashion apparel company continued. “In corroboration of our intentions, we have decided, with immediate effect, to withdraw this image from every publication."

The ad was part of a campaign United Colors of Benetton unveiled Wednesday that features doctored photos of world leaders kissing each other and that aims to combat what the Italian-based company called a “culture of hatred.”

The series features fake photos of U.S. President Barack Obama kissing Chinese leader Hu Jintao and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu kissing Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas, among other pairings.

The ads are appearing in print and online media around the world.

“The central theme is the kiss, the most universal symbol of love, between world political and religious leaders,” Benetton said in a Wednesday press release.

“These are symbolic images of reconciliation - with a touch of ironic hope and constructive provocation - to stimulate reflection on how politics, faith and ideas, even when they are divergent and mutually opposed, must still lead to dialogue and mediation.”

Benetton says the ad campaign accompanies the creation of a new organization called the UNHATE foundation.

- CNN Belief Blog Co-Editor

Filed under: Catholic Church • Islam

soundoff (1,035 Responses)
  1. abd

    You could put the ad for one minute, then have a conference on why you removed the ad, and then the media will take care of the rest, and the ad will be all over the world, and guess what, all that will be free of charge, so you will be saving your money, and conveying your message, that is how media work.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:59 pm |
  2. Savannah 1121

    Amazing what a person can do with photoshop!!

    November 16, 2011 at 8:58 pm |
  3. Bayley12

    There are actually lots of fake photos around. Just Monday I received an email from someone who hates the Obamas and never passes up he opportunity to disparage the president and his family. . The picture was of them saying the pledge of allegiance to the flag using the wrong hand and arm and calling them the dumbest pair to ever live in the White House. Did this person really believe that the picture was genuine? Better yet, did he think that I would actually believe it? From now on, I delete anything that comes from this person.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  4. JJ

    There is no shame or decency left at CNN.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  5. Jay Stewart

    Seemingly naive corporate tactic for money. Benneton knew this would backfire. Lets not act so ignorant as Benneton. Boycott Bennetton.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
  6. Daliah


    November 16, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • John Richardson

      It's not hard to find online.

      November 16, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  7. Matt

    Benetton seems surprised that people would find this offensive. How stupid are they?

    November 16, 2011 at 8:54 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      Not as stupid as you apparently!

      November 16, 2011 at 8:56 pm |
  8. Rethink

    Seriously, CNN? You, as an international news outlet, are running a story about someone "pulling" a picture, while all along, you are just tickled to death that you get to show it? You disgust me. This picture would be hyperbolically the most offensive thing in the world to those two men. Shame on you.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:52 pm |
  9. AR

    Totally inappropriate. A clear lack of respect with nations and religions around the world. Benetton for sure lost many of its consumers because of this ad. There are many nice ways to promote something (i.e. -- peace) without offending people.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:51 pm |
    • icon1099

      Sorry but I bet that most of Bennetton's customer base are not really religiously affiliated. While Benetton is playing "aloof" here, I suspect that this was well thought out knowing that their demographic could care less about the image but they would pick up all the free publicity.

      November 16, 2011 at 9:04 pm |
  10. Daliah


    November 16, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Google it yourself if that's what you get off on. But do understand that it too is a doctored photo.

      November 16, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
  11. whatthe

    every person has different reaction seeing this photo...but sometimes we missed to realized that the mindset of the people who came up with this idea actually represent the majority of the behavior that this generation we are now.

    The question :
    1. If it doesn't bother you, is it a sign that you've grown up and mature, learned to accept the reality where we are heading OR is it a sign that you are already stupid that doesn't know the fine line between promoting disrespect and love.
    2. If it bothers you a lot, are you living in the old days (stone age) or someone who want to preserved one of the pillar of love "Love your neighbor as you love yourself" (Would you post your picture if you love yourself "of course, no, yes, maybe, probably if I'll get in return $ 🙂 ).

    We can discuss, debate and throw all the reasoning we all have, but the bottom line we can never agree all the time and we will always have disagreement no matter what... HOWEVER we can do something by respecting each other (What would I feel if I'm the one on the stage "still you won't feel anything since you haven't been in the stage..LOL" ).

    November 16, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Beauty pageant speech. Just ignore it.

      November 16, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • janus

      and your momma swallows!

      November 16, 2011 at 8:49 pm |
  12. TeaPartyIsForLittleGirls

    They should do one with Obama kissing Sarah Palin

    November 16, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
    • hippypoet

      see now... thats a nasty image i am stuck with for life.. .thanks for making me vurp?

      November 16, 2011 at 8:42 pm |
    • janus

      with the caption?
      maybe......cant we all just get along?
      once you go black...you never go back!

      November 16, 2011 at 8:46 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      Michelle kissing Sarah better

      November 16, 2011 at 8:53 pm |
    • John Richardson

      No, no, no! NO Michelle Bachman kissing pics!!!!

      November 16, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
  13. Daliah

    This is not the Pope in the picture. This is somebody else. The Pope is white, and he has a very nice skin. This guy has spots in his face. May be he is Muslin too..

    November 16, 2011 at 8:39 pm |
    • hippypoet

      nope, thats the pope alright... he kissed me last week.. looked the same way!

      November 16, 2011 at 8:41 pm |
  14. chilliepepper

    Can tell it's fake because they only kiss little boys

    November 16, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
    • Blahblahblah

      you're a creative one, ain't ya?

      November 16, 2011 at 8:36 pm |
    • janus

      pope only blows AND swallows!
      all the boys say so!

      November 16, 2011 at 8:44 pm |
  15. John D


    November 16, 2011 at 8:35 pm |
  16. Peace

    Agree it is funny. But this is also not showing or potraying a core figure of a religion in poor light which can create problems world wide and possibly even violence. So I do not see this as distructive ...dont have any reason to believe it is unlike what we have seen in the past related to key figure of Islam Muhammad by a news agency.

    A positive gesture like this could possibly lay the foundation of world peace and also better understanding between great religions of the world. There are great people on everyside that wish to be heard and deep down everyone wishes to be respected so he or she must respect the other.

    November 16, 2011 at 8:34 pm |
    • John Richardson

      Oh yeah, after 10,000 plus years of warfare and strife amongst human civilizations (so-called, anyway), this photo is laying down the foundation for peace. Absolutely. I can feel the warm fuzzies catching on all over ....

      November 16, 2011 at 8:43 pm |
    • Don't care

      Peace........Bennetton.........Sells Fuc*ing clothes. Some assh**e drew this campaign and another one approved it.
      They have to learn to mind their business which is CLOTHES if you missed it the first time. If they wanted to get involved the jerk*ff should have had them sitting at a table with a bottle of wine. Hey, they could put you in that add pouring the wine.

      November 16, 2011 at 9:12 pm |
  17. Raul

    These ad people are sure out of touch with the common folk. Snortin' too much?

    November 16, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
    • Passive Aggressive

      You are incorrect

      November 16, 2011 at 8:37 pm |
  18. janus

    any organization that accepts GWB as a member is definitely a farce a scam and a lie!

    November 16, 2011 at 8:33 pm |
  19. Daliah

    In Europe when people want to say hello, or by by, they kiss each other. This is not new, and everybody knows that. How can Cnn does not show Obama kissing Hugo Chavez? Hugo was not supposed to kiss Obama, first of all because they
    are enemies, and secondly because in South America people don't use to kiss in the mouth when they are men, so why Obama is kissing Chaves?

    November 16, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
    • *frank*


      November 16, 2011 at 8:40 pm |
  20. rs1201

    whoever thought up these ads must have a single digit IQ...not an iota more than that...

    November 16, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
    • tallulah13

      Nonsense. Controversy is a time-honored advertising strategy. This campaign will probably work quite well in the demographic Bennetton is trying to reach.

      November 17, 2011 at 11:28 am |
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