This Whole Foods Obama chicken ad misfires badly

In Manhattan's notoriously liberal Upper West Side, residents' complaints force the organic grocery chain to pull an ad they considered racist.

By Jason Notte Feb 22, 2013 4:52PM
Whole Foods' chicken ad featuring Obama outrages neighbors (© NBC 4 New York, York's Upper West Side may be where hungry tourists stop in at H&H Bagels for breakfast, Barney Greengrass for lox and whitefish and Zabar's to nosh on some cheese or salad. But it's also where Martin Luther King Jr. and Columbia University students voiced opposition to the Vietnam War and where Riverside Church handed out tents to Occupy Wall Street protesters.

It's the home of Lincoln Center, the Museum of Natural History, Barnard and Juilliard.

It's just not the kind of place where Whole Foods (WFM) can put up an illustration of President Barack Obama touting the grocer's chicken special and expect folks to shrug it off as anything but racist. Yet the Whole Foods on 97th Street and Columbus Avenue put up just such a caricature earlier this week before receiving a flood of complaints.

A Whole Foods spokesman told The Huffington Post that the location ditched its caricature of the president selling organic chicken "once it was brought to our attention by a shopper that it may be perceived as offensive." Judging by the neighborhood's reaction, that's an understatement at best.

"There are certain things that have been used to put down black people," neighbor Woody Henderson told NBC 4 New York.

The same Whole Foods spokesman said the store's artists created various pop-culture images to promote sales and events, and that the image wasn't meant to be offensive. Were the depiction of President Obama selling Whole Foods' 365-brand cereal, it might not have offended anyone. However, the specific combination of the image and the product being sold didn't sit well with folks on the Upper West Side's streets.

"Even if he's not the president, you're going to have an African-American promoting the sale of chicken?" Jason Nunez of the Bronx asked NBC. "They can do better than that." 

This hasn't been the first culture clash for Whole Foods and its clientele. Back in January, CEO John Mackey went on National Public Radio and compared the new health care law to fascism. He's also unsettled his notoriously left-leaning consumer base by identifying himself as a libertarian in 2005 and questioning employees' right to health care in 2009.

While slip-ups like the Obama ad may fly in places like Kentucky, where a man who put a mannequin of the president eating a watermelon on his front lawn didn't see how it could be construed as racist, the Upper West Side isn't a great place to play the "Who, us racist?" game.

"I don't think you can find a more pro-Democratic neighborhood," Whole Foods neighbor Jeffrey Schaper told NBC. "They're sort of shooting themselves in the foot."

More on moneyNOW

Feb 22, 2013 7:32PM
Obama is just as racist as Archie Bunker , but Obama is "black " and we all know that "blacks" aren't racist , just whites . A lot of BS here people .
Feb 22, 2013 7:31PM
Let's have another vote ------ thighs, wings or my favorite and i am white, breasts.
Feb 22, 2013 7:29PM
Wheres the grape drink and watermellon?
Feb 22, 2013 7:28PM
So let me get this straight... black people don't like chicken  or watermelon?
Feb 22, 2013 7:27PM
Let's have a vote------- kc, chick fila, popeyes, or chuch's chicken.
Feb 22, 2013 7:27PM
This is just another sign of how hyper-sensitive we have allowed people to become by catering to them every time they critch about something.  I thought that it was fried chicken that was supposed to be so stinking offensive, since when has it now extended to all chicken. 

I think all the complainers should be shipped to a desert isle in the South Pacific without access to cell phones and the internet, that way the rest of us can live our lives in peace without having to hear how evil we are all the time.

Feb 22, 2013 7:25PM

Full Circle,

Around 55 years ago people all over the country tuned in to the TV show 'Amos and Andy', which was very well written and very funny. Rather few people, Black or White, considered it denigrating to the African American community because it portrayed all people honestly and respectfully, but still it was removed from the air. Perhaps society is no more open-minded and enlightened a half century later when everyone has to be on pins and needles to be perfectly correct on all political and social matters when any given minority is portrayed or publicized. Everyone, no matter their race, creed, color, ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation is now equal and protected under the law. A few people in the country simply need need to grow up and act like it, it's the 21st century.


Peace to all ~

Feb 22, 2013 7:21PM

I'm surprised no one called the ACLU to bring a lawsuit against them because it was not politically correct!


Feb 22, 2013 7:15PM
The worst bigots, racists, classists, and elitists this country HAS were re-installed in the White House by popular vote in November 2012. Yes, I mean his wife also.
Feb 22, 2013 7:14PM
Some of my best friends sell chicken
Feb 22, 2013 7:13PM
It's not that it is racist ..even though some could  easily think much as it is in poor taste using an unattractive image of the President of the United States to sell chicken at a grocery store.
Feb 22, 2013 7:13PM
When I was a child, my parents bought chickens to teach us how to walk
Feb 22, 2013 7:10PM
And thus the beginning of the demise of a once good company.  

If you are a business man - as opposed to a politician - stay out of the political arena.  Publicly, being a demagogue and questioning an employee's right to healthcare is stupid.  
Feb 22, 2013 7:09PM

So if the most popular food eaten in the entire country is advertised

by a black person, it is RACIST ?????

Have these people lost their everloving minds ?????

All people in America eat chicken. Most people in America eat it

very often. How is associating a black person with chicken racist ????

The KFC in the town where I work does not even have ONE white

employee working there. How out of touch with reality are these nuts

in New York City's Upper West Side ????

Worry about the economy. Worry about Norh Korea. Worry about modern

day slavery in countries in Africa. But don't worry about chicken !!!!!!!!

Feb 22, 2013 7:07PM
Goes great with organic watermelon
Feb 22, 2013 7:04PM
That ad is a riot. If ever there was a whole organic chicken, it's OBAMAAAA.
Feb 22, 2013 7:04PM
A few years ago, I remember seeing news pictures of Michelle Obama and her kids "working" in the vegetable garden that they had planted at the White House in support of MO's obesity campaign.

I couldn't help wonder if the the picture of a black family tending to crops in front of a large white mansion is now okay?

I also remember a story last year about the NBC cafeteria serving fried chicken and greens during Black History Month and the cafeteria supervisor was in trouble for being so "insensitive".  A FOX commentator later noted, "What was she supposed to serve during Black History Month?  Matzah ball soup?"

Let's leave the 'progressives' and liberals to themselves.  They deserve each other.

Feb 22, 2013 7:00PM
Obama is neither black, nor white. He is mixed.
Feb 22, 2013 6:54PM
Has anybody thought about whether or not the organic chicken was offended by being put in the same picture as the worst president we have ever had.
Please help us to maintain a healthy and vibrant community by reporting any illegal or inappropriate behavior. If you believe a message violates theCode of Conductplease use this form to notify the moderators. They will investigate your report and take appropriate action. If necessary, they report all illegal activity to the proper authorities.
100 character limit
Are you sure you want to delete this comment?


Copyright © 2014 Microsoft. All rights reserved.

Fundamental company data and historical chart data provided by Morningstar Inc. Real-time index quotes and delayed quotes supplied by Morningstar Inc. Quotes delayed by up to 15 minutes, except where indicated otherwise. Fund summary, fund performance and dividend data provided by Morningstar Inc. Analyst recommendations provided by Zacks Investment Research. StockScouter data provided by Verus Analytics. IPO data provided by Hoover's Inc. Index membership data provided by Morningstar Inc.

Trending NOW

What’s this?


[BRIEFING.COM] S&P futures vs fair value: +1.00. Nasdaq futures vs fair value: -1.00. Nasdaq at... NYSE Adv/Dec 0/0... Nasdaq Adv/Dec 0/0.