Business, Economics and Jobs

The Daily Show: Catholic League wins a round over "vagina manger" joke?


The Catholic League called on the Daily Show's host Jon Stewart to apologize for remarks made in a segment of his show on April 16, 2012. The League threatened to boycott his show if he did not issue an apology.


Dimitrios Kambouris

What do vaginas, airplanes and breakfast cereal have in common?

And no, this is not the start of some bad joke.

The answer: each is playing a role in the ongoing and increasingly vitriolic public relations battle between The Catholic League and The Daily Show.

The corporate kerfuffle is over Jon Stewart's April 16 joke, which placed a photoshopped image of a manger in front of a vagina.

Stewart's bit was part of a longer satirical examination that conflated GOP statements about women's rights with the long-running Fox News "War on Christmas" (hence the vagina manger joke).

Here's the whole clip. The "offending" bit occurs just before the five-minute mark:

As it was probably intended, the Daily Show story angered many conservatives, and Catholic League president Bill Donohue quickly launched a series of press releases that attacked Stewart and demanded an apology.

Stewart eventually offered this retort on his show: “I’m not going to censor myself to comfort your ignorance."

Today, the plot thickened.

Delta Airlines has pulled its ads from the popular Comedy Central show, and Donohue was quick to take credit for the company's decision.

Here's how BuzzFeed's Rosie Gray reported the story:

"Delta spokeswoman Leslie Parker confirmed to BuzzFeed that the airline pulled its advertising last week. Parker said that 'We are constantly evaluating our advertising strategy and at this time no longer advertise during The Daily Show,' and denied that the decision had anything to do with 'any opinions expressed' by the show."

But according to Donohue: it's all about the vagina.

Here's how he crowed in a press release today:

"I encourage everyone to choose Delta the next time they fly. We need to support advertisers who act responsibly."

The next target of Donohue's angry army is Kellogg's, which according to Donohue is "telling Christians to shove it," by not professing outrage over the Daily Show joke.

So here comes the public relations blitz.

Here's Donohue again, in the same press release:

"Today, all the top management at Kellogg’s will receive a color photo of a naked woman with her legs spread and a nativity scene ornament in between. Let’s see if that jars them. Over 700 photos have been sent to leaders in Battle Creek, Michigan. Please boycott Kellogg’s cereals."

Will it work?

Boycotts have a mixed record of success across Corporate America, and most academic research on the topic suggests that they do not work. They can even produce the opposite of the intended effect.

But there is at least one piece of research that should spark some concern in Kellogg's senior management meetings.

According to the Stanford Graduate School of Business, a 2003 boycott of French wine in the US cost winemakers in France $112 million. Back then, conservatives were offended by French political opposition to the war in Iraq.

So will one vagina joke prove as costly as that?

Stay tuned, folks.