The controversy over the reality TV show "All-American Muslim" continues, with Kayak.com apologizing to customers Wednesday for deciding not to advertise on the TLC show next year. But an executive at the travel site said the network "was not upfront with us about the nature of this show" and added that "mostly, I just thought the show sucked."
In a letter posted on its website titled "We handled this poorly," Kayak's Chief Marketing Officer Robert Birge apologizes to "anyone who was offended" by how the travel site handled its decision not to continue advertising on the show when it returns in January.
"We decided to advertise on it in the first place because we adamantly support tolerance and diversity," the letter said. "Our 150-person team includes people from all over the world, and from all walks of life.…We get what America is about."
However, Birge noted that the company understood the decision "comes across as bending to bigotry" and said employees at the company were "very unhappy with how I handled this."
In explaining the decision, he said Kayak's approach to advertising is to place ads based on who watches a program, and not its political leaning. Birge said the company deemed the show a worthy topic at first, but looked into the program more carefully after receiving angry emails over its decision to advertise.
"The first thing I discovered was that TLC was not upfront with us about the nature of this show. As I said, it's a worthy topic, but any reasonable person would know that this topic is a particular lightning rod," he said. "We believe TLC went out of their way to pick a fight on this, and they didn't let us know their intentions. That's not a business practice that generally gets repeat business from us... Sadly, TLC is now enjoying the attention from this controversy."
At the end of the letter, Birge wrote: "Lastly, I watched the first two episodes. Mostly, I just thought the show sucked. Based on our dealings with TLC and the simple assessment of the show, I decided we should put our money elsewhere. Apologies again."
"All-American Muslim," which premiered last month, follows the day-to-day lives of five Muslim American families in Dearborn, Mich., a suburb of Detroit with a large Muslim population. Cast members talk about how their faith affects their actions and choices.
Other companies, including Lowe's Cos., have also come under heavy criticism from activists, some politicians and customers after pulling its ads from a reality-TV show featuring Muslim Americans.
The North Carolina-based home improvement giant decided to stop advertising on the show after complaints by the Florida Family Assn., a conservative Christian group that lobbies companies to promote "traditional, biblical values."
The association praised the move but the decision sparked an immediate backlash. State Sen. Ted Lieu (D-Torrance) called the move "bigoted, shameful, and un-American." A petition on SignOn.org that calls on companies to keep advertising on the show has gathered thousands of signatures. Activist and actress Mia Farrow joined the battle in a Twitter post and urged a boycott of Lowe's.
-- Andrea Chang
Photo: Suehaila Amen is featured in "All-American Muslim." Credit: Adam Rose / TLC