An Open Letter to Kayak's CEO Over Ceasing to Advertise During "All-American Muslim"

People for the American Way President Michael Keegan has issued an open letter to Kayak CEO Steve Hafner over Hafner's decision to discontinue advertisements during the TLC show All-American Muslim. Hafner's decision came after the right-wing Florida Family Association smeared the show for portraying Muslims in a positive light. In addition to Kayak, several businesses, including Lowe's hardware stores, pulled their ads. Hafner issued an apology for the way the advertising move was handled, but ultimately he stood by his decision, noting that "I just thought the show sucked."

Keegan was unsatisfied by Hafner's apology. Below is Keegan's open letter to the Kayak CEO.

An Open Letter to Kayak CEO Steve Hafner

Dear Mr. Hafner:

I am writing to express my deep concern about Kayak's decision to pull advertising from the TLC program "All-American Muslim" in the wake of complaints from a far-right anti-Muslim group that resented the program's portrayal of Muslims as ordinary people facing ordinary challenges. We were also baffled by Kayak's responses to questions about the reasoning behind your decision to pull the ads.

To anyone who respects diversity, the Florida Family Association's insistence that "All-American Muslim" should be boycotted because it portrays "Muslims as ordinary folks just like you and me," instead of as fanatics and terrorists, reeks of bigotry. Your decision to pull advertising from the show following these complaints is extremely troubling.

Kayak's explanations for its actions have only furthered our concerns. Robert Birge, your Chief Marketing Officer, claimed that TLC withheld information about the program that would have changed your view that "All-American Muslim" is a show about a "worthy topic." We fail to understand why, had you been provided a more comprehensive description of the program, you would have come to the conclusion that a show depicting American Muslims as normal citizens rather than as terrorists was an inappropriate programming for your advertising. What information about the show was withheld? In what way is a show about ordinary, non-stereotypical Muslims troubling?

In the New York Times, Mr. Birge claimed that TLC pitched "All-American Muslim" as a "fair and balanced look at the life of an American Muslim," but that the channel failed to disclose the "pre-existing controversy surrounding race, religion and specifically the divide between the Muslim and Christian communities in Dearborn, Mich." What controversy are you referring to? Is the manufactured controversy of fringe activists like David Canton and the FFA enough to cause you to drop your advertising? We hope that you had researched Mr. Canton and the Florida Family Association prior to catering to his demands.

Buckling to the pressure of anti-Muslim extremists is extraordinarily offensive not only to Muslims, but to all Americans who value the diversity of our society and the freedom of religion enshrined in our Constitution. You insist that Kayak was not swayed by the bigotry of anti-Muslim groups, but haven't provided any other credible reason for dropping your support of the show. We firmly believe that one cannot be committed to diversity while claiming that merely portraying diversity can be unacceptably controversial.

The American people deserve a much fuller explanation of your actions.


Michael Keegan

President, People For the American Way Foundation 

AlterNet / By Lauren Kelley

Posted at December 22, 2011, 7:55am

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