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, http://bit.ly/YdqdbX)New 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."


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193Comments
Feb 22, 2013 8:00PM
Feb 22, 2013 7:59PM
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Some people are real thin-skinned and need to get over it and get a life.
Feb 22, 2013 7:59PM
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Why would anybody use the worst president in history in an ad?
Feb 22, 2013 7:57PM
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Hey, dennis how do you know it is not painted black inside!
Feb 22, 2013 7:57PM
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The real problem is that we are all racists to some degree.  It is human nature to gravitate to those most like yourself, not just in appearance but in life experience and perspective.  This isn't malicious or by design.  It just is what it is.  This is why we need to be careful about generalizations and caricatures.  While some stereotypes might be generally applied to one group or another, to assume that everyone within the group fits the stereotype is wrong. 

Racism still exists.  There are people who hate other people because of skin color or religion or ethnicity.  This is also why we have to try to break out of the stereotypes and the assumptions.  While everyone may share certain genetic similarities, this does not mean they share opinions, perspectives or biases.  Some white people may hate black people, but not all white people hate black people.  But we must never, by silence or fear, accede to racism and hatred.  Hating someone else solely on the basis of color, ethnicity or religion is wrong.  It leads to violence, and in extreme cases, to genocide.  So we must always stand up against it.  And we must never assume that it is no longer a problem.  So long as there are human beings there will always be people who hate.  So we must always we vigilant and prepared to stand up against stereotypes and hatred.

Feb 22, 2013 7:57PM
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This is in the top ten most ridiculous article I have ever read.  Someone has too much time on his hands.
Feb 22, 2013 7:54PM
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By the way, which half of obama is offended?  Which is white and which so black so we can get a good reading on this PC problem the Upper West Side has.  It must be a difficult problem for him as is anything that requires a decision that might make sense to all of America except for the liberal pretenders of all that is right so long as you believe in it.  An example, "the sequester is good for America and reducing the deficit" while now the same president says, "it is a castrophe and people will lose jobs, starve, etc., etc.", while failing to mention it is his plan in the first place.  Leadership by lies and crisis isn't leadership; it is pandering and scare tactics of a weak selfish and arrogant being.  Please go back to Chicago where your brand of disasters are commonplace.
Feb 22, 2013 7:54PM
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Not black...mulatto...just like the rest of us mutts.  Political correctness is as much an enemy of this nation is the pretender-in-chief in the White House.  Actually, as much as he and his three axe handle wide wife hate this country, I am surprised that they have not had the White House repainted in a chocolate milk color.
Feb 22, 2013 7:53PM
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If the owner of the store was black, patrons would flock from near and far to support his genious ad campaign. Let me show you how racists the average conservative minded guy (me) really is. I dont even get it. Seriously, why is it racists. Where did the black folk and chickens cross paths? Did the chicken cross the black man?
Feb 22, 2013 7:51PM
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I wonder what would happen if whole foods had a picture of a hanging chair instead of Obama.
Feb 22, 2013 7:49PM
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Chicken, watermelon, et al = "little hurts" "african-americans" created and perpetuated in their fabricated "black history" narratives.  Caucasians never know about them untli they  are lambasted.  So sad that all of that creative energy has not been spent in becoming successful, productive members of the producer class.
Feb 22, 2013 7:41PM
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I guess we need to bring Clark Gable back " frankly my dear i do not give a damm!"
Feb 22, 2013 7:40PM
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Simply wonderful...I love Whole Foods, enjoy frequent visits to Manhattan, and count myself as an economic conservative and social libertarian...can't stand the big government mindset of liberals like Obama.  In addition to fantastic food, it's things like this that keep me loyal to Whole Foods...despite my frequent visits there where everyone looks like an unbathed hippie, seems overly fascinated with hemp-based clothing, and tries to shove their liberal politics down my throat.

Feb 22, 2013 7:40PM
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People will use anything to cause a stir. Should I be offended if they use an Italian persons picture in a Ravioli ad? Mexican person when promoting tamales? Sadly this ad was most likely not even used on account of the presidents ethnicity, but his status and office. This stir is nothing but an over reaction by the few who look for a problem with everything and are happy with destroying everything for the rest of us. 

Feb 22, 2013 7:38PM
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I find it a lot more offensive that Obama can't/won't be truthful.
Feb 22, 2013 7:38PM
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It is amazing how the media will stick up for Obama and let him yet away with s----t. Look back at the things they wrote and say and the drawings and the jokes they made of Bush. But the media did nothing to stop or defend him. You cannot tell me that Obama is not in protection with the media. I say whats good for Bush is good for Obama. Shut up and take it you stupid Obama lovers!

Feb 22, 2013 7:36PM
Feb 22, 2013 7:35PM
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Whole Foods CEO John Mackey has created an anti-Obama culture in his company. Whole Foods seems to forget that a majority of its customers are Democratic party voters and may not necessarily be upper-middle-class people who vote for anyone who opposes new taxes. This appears to be a simple mis-step on the part of the offending store, but thanks to Mr. Mackey the entire company is on watch status. It's an insult that Mackey goes on speaking engagements and takes book-authoring credit as well.

 

All consumers who believe in the president would do well to stop the pricey trips to "Whole Paycheck" and use those savings to support something (or someone) more worthwhile.

Feb 22, 2013 7:35PM
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but but but . . .
it's Organic chicken
Feb 22, 2013 7:34PM
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Ah jesus christ, I'm a white cracker and I like chicken. So whats that mean?????
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