News & Politics

Controversy after Italian Airline Shows Ad with Actor in Blackface Playing Obama

(Aude Guerrucci/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images)

It baffles me that stories like this keep cropping up in 2019. I shouldn’t be surprised, I guess; stupidity will never be eradicated. Case in point: a group of people working for an Italian airline thought it was a good idea to create an ad featuring a white actor in blackface playing President Obama. After the ad was filmed, even more people working for the airline decided it was a good idea to greenlight it to be played across the world. In 2019, it would seem that at least one person, at some point during the process from idea to implementation to distribution would’ve said, “Um, this might not be a good idea? Anyone here heard of American Democrat politician Ralph Northam?”

Apparently, no one with any clout in the company said anything remotely like that during the process.

The ad was a promotional video for the Italian airline Alitalia’s Rome to Washington route. Most likely, there are a few less people on Alitalia’s payroll this morning, because the internet predictably erupted once the ad began playing on Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube. One Twitter user, after pointing out how racist the ad is, expressed his belief that Alitalia won’t apologize for the ad.

After initially denying that the ad is racist, Alitalia relented, of course, and has apologized—profusely apologized. In a statement, the company said:

Alitalia deeply apologizes for the offense caused by the promotional video on our Washington route. It has since been removed. For our Company, respect for everyone is mandatory, it was never our intention to hurt anyone and we will learn from what has happened.

Twitter being Twitter, its users are having a field day with Alitalia’s apology, pointing out that if they truly respected everyone, the ad would have never been made in the first place.

The ad, which can be seen below, features several American presidents walking around asking people where Washington is (I think that’s what they’re asking, I don’t speak Italian). Interspersed with scenes from both Rome and Washington D.C., the actor in blackface playing Obama is featured prominently. One can’t help but wonder if Virginia’s Democrat Governor Ralph Northam hasn’t found his new favorite airline. Racists need to stick together, after all.