Nordic airline SAS cans ad after online hate campaign

FILE PHOTO: People board an SAS aircraft at Kiruna airport in Sweden, December 16, 2015. REUTERS/Ints Kalnins/File Photo

STOCKHOLM (Reuters) - Nordic airline SAS removed an internet ad debunking myths about Scandinavia on Wednesday after it became the victim of an online hate campaign, particularly from nationalist and right-wing groups.

The airline’s commercial “What is truly Scandinavian?” sought to extol the virtue of travel by showing how aspects of the region’s culture, from Swedish meatballs to Danish pastries to parental leave, all came from elsewhere originally.

“What is really Scandinavian? Absolutely nothing,” it said. “In a way, Scandinavia was brought here piece by piece, by everyday people we found the best of our home away from home.”

Lawmakers in the populist Danish People’s Party said SAS, or Scandinavian Airlines, had denigrated Danish culture and they called on the Danish government, which has a 14% stake in the airline, to react.

“I have always flown with SAS a lot but I would have bad taste in my mouth if I did it again because they spit on us like that,” the party’s foreign affairs spokesperson, Soeren Espersen, told tabloid Ekstra Bladet.

The ad said Danish pastries were actually Austrian, Swedish meatballs originated in Turkey, the region’s windmills came from what is now Iran, liquorice was Chinese and even the pride of Norway - the paperclip - was invented by an American.

“When analyzing the pattern and volume of reactions we have reason to suspect an online attack and that the campaign has been hijacked,” the airline said in a statement.

SAS said it expected to share more information about the social media campaign waged against the ad later on Wednesday.

“We stand by the core message in the commercial, that travel enriches us,” it said.

Reporting by Colm Fulton in Stockholm; Additional reporting by Nikolaj Skydsgaard in Copenhagen; Editing by David Clarke