(Associated Press) Under pressure from a conservative advocacy group, The Hallmark Channel has pulled ads for a wedding-planning website that featured two brides kissing at the altar.
The family-friendly network, which is in the midst of its heavily watched holiday programming, removed the ads because the controversy was a distraction, a spokesperson said in an interview Saturday.
“The debate surrounding these commercials on all sides was distracting from the purpose of our network, which is to provide entertainment value,” said a statement provided by Molly Biwer, senior vice president for public affairs and communications at Hallmark.
In an interview, she added: “The Hallmark brand is never going to be divisive. We don’t want to generate controversy, we’ve tried very hard to stay out of it … we just felt it was in the best interest of the brand to pull them and not continue to generate controversy.”
There was immediate criticism on Twitter. Ellen DeGeneres asked Hallmark: “Isn’t it almost 2020? What are you thinking? Please explain. We’re all ears.”
Biwer confirmed that a conservative group, One Million Moms, part of the American Family Association, had complained about the ads to Bill Abbott, CEO of Crown Media Family Networks, Hallmark’s parent company.
A post on the group’s website said that Abbott “reported the advertisement aired in error.” The group also wrote: “The call to our office gave us the opportunity to confirm the Hallmark Channel will continue to be a safe and family-friendly network.”
Zola had submitted six ads, and four had a lesbian couple. After Hallmark pulled those ads, but not two featuring only opposite-sex couples, Zola pulled its remaining ads, the company said.
The developments came as Hallmark appeared to be considering more same-sex themed content. [Editor’s note: See “Hallmark Channel Caves to Diversity Bullies, Vows to Push More LGBTQ Storylines“]