Blog: Dean BestPasta giant Barilla in storm over boss's "anti-gay" remarks

Dean Best | 26 September 2013

Barilla, one of Italy's largest food groups, has become embroiled in a PR storm after some controversial remarks by the company president in a radio interview.

Guido Barilla reportedly told Italian radio programme La Zanzara he would not choose to make adverts that portrayed homosexual families.

"I would never make a spot with a homosexual family," Mr Barilla said, according to the Italian news agency ANSA"Not out of a lack of respect but because I don't see it like they do. [My idea of] family is a classic family where the woman has a fundamental role. We have a different concept with regard to the gay family. For us, the concept of the sacred family remains a fundamental value of the company."

The show's hosts then remarked that gay people ate pasta - to which, according to ANSA, he replied: "That's fine if they like our pasta and our communication, they can eat them. Otherwise they can eat another pasta. You can't always please everyone."

Mr Barilla was then said to continue: "I respect everyone who does what they want to do without bothering others. I'm also in favour of gay marriage. But not adoption in gay families. As a father of multiple children, I believe it's very hard to raise kids in a same-sex couple."

As a non-Italian speaker, it is hard to say what provoked Mr Barilla's comments but they are bizarre to say the least. And to some, quite rightly, offensive.

Unsurprisingly, Mr Barilla's comments have provoked fierce criticism, with, at the time of writing, #boicottabarilla and #Barilla, the top two trends in Italy on Twitter.

Aurelio Mancuso, head of the Equality Italia group, said: "We accept the invitation of Mr Barilla not to eat his pasta." Mancuso also called for a boycott of Barilla's products.

The Barilla boss swiftly sought to clarify his remarks. "With reference to remarks made yesterday to an Italian radio programme, I apologise if my words have generated controversy or misunderstanding, or if they hurt someone’s sensitivity," he said.

"For clarity, I would like to point out that I have the utmost respect for anyone, without distinction of any kind. I have the utmost respect for gay people and for everyone's right to express themselves. I’ve also said - and I would like to reiterate - that I respect gay marriages. In its advertising, Barilla represents the family - because it's what welcomes everyone and what has always been identified with our brand."

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