LOS ANGELES J.C. Penney Co Inc said on Friday it fully backs its partnership with chat show host Ellen DeGeneres after a conservative group urged the retailer to reconsider hiring DeGeneres as a spokeswoman because she is a lesbian.
A spokeswoman for the retailer declined further comment on the issue but did say in an e-mail to Reuters, "jcpenney stands behind its partnership with Ellen DeGeneres" and added that its announcement of the agreement last week sums up the company's view of the popular TV personality.
In that statement on January 25, company president Michael Francis called DeGeneres "one of the most fun and vibrant people in entertainment today, with great warmth and a down-to-earth attitude."
Penney's decision to hire DeGeneres spurred conservative group One Million Moms, a division of the American Family Association, to slam the company for not being "neutral in the culture war."
"Funny that JC Penney thinks hiring an open homosexual spokesperson will help their business when most of their customers are traditional families. More sales will be lost than gained unless they replace their spokesperson quickly," the organization posted on their website, urging supporters to call their local J.C. Penney store manager to lodge complaints against hiring DeGeneres.
Gay and lesbian rights group GLAAD launched their own counter-campaign, Stand Up For Ellen, in response to One Million Moms, attracting more than 25,000 signatures in their petition to J.C. Penney to keep DeGeneres as their spokesperson, and applauded the retail store for sticking to their decision.
"This week Americans spoke out in overwhelming support of LGBT people and J.C. Penney's decision not to fire Ellen simply for who she happens to love," said Herndon Graddick, senior director of programs and communications at GLAAD.
(Reporting By Piya Sinha-Roy; Editing by Bob Tourtellotte and Jackie Frank)
Removes extra "said" in first paragraph.