Benetton has a new “UNHATE” ad campaign that digitally alters photos of world leaders to make it appear that they are kissing. There is one showing President Barack Obama kissing Chinese President Hu Jintao, and one depicting French President Nicolas Sarkozy kissing his German counterpart, Angela Merkel. After the Vatican disapproved of the one featuring an image of Pope Benedict XVI kissing an Egyptian imam, the ad was pulled.

Catholic League president Bill Donohue addressed this today:

The damage that Benetton did is done—the offensive photo of the Holy Father and the imam is posted on the Internet. Benetton has a history of not only being edgy, but of being anti-Catholic and vulgar: in 1995, its magazine Colors featured Christmas holiday ads promoting such gifts as a bull’s testicles and a metal instrument used to abort unborn children. The Catholic League quickly condemned Benetton at the time.

Benetton gets no points for withdrawing the pope-imam ad. It knew what it was doing, and we know from past experience what its intent was. What is particularly striking about all this is that the ad campaign was launched to promote tolerance. Guess its hatred of Catholicism is so strong that even appeals to tolerance cannot stop it from fostering intolerance.

Contact Adrianna Rizzi at Benetton’s New York PR office:

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