Olive Garden Drops Letterman – Update: Hotair

Uh Oh … guess when your advertiser’s motto is “When you’re here, you’re family”, you should expect some blowback. I have to be honest, this makes me nervous. I didn’t think Howard Stern should have been suspended, or Don Imus and I fear we are headed there with David Lettermen.

All three said dumb stuff in my estimation. Imus was simply disgusting … and … Letterman wasn’t just disgusting but pretty despicable. Still … he apologized (the first one not so much, the second one sincere).

But if we are going to start playing this game … we could turn the media into a pretty bloody battlefield and turn free speech into a museum curiosity. Here are the details via Gateway:

“We apologize that Mr. Letterman’s mistake, which was not consistent with our standards and values, left you with a bad impression of Olive Garden,” wrote Sherri Bruen, the company’s guest relations manager.

Bruen said the company “screens network television programs whenever possible,” but explained that “telecasts, such as ‘The Late Show’ with David Letterman, are taped on a daily basis, preventing advertisers from reviewing the content prior to airing.”

I believe this is the first for the show … but not the first for CBS because of the joke.

Embassy Suites, part of the Hilton Hotels Corp., pulled advertising on CBS’ site because of complaints, company spokeswoman Kendra Walker told TVGuide.com. The company was not an advertiser on Letterman’s show.

Update: Hot Air has done some nice legwork by contacting John Ziegler. They report that Olive Garden didn’t pull the ads but rather insists it won’t be buying anymore time. A difference without a distinction I think.

We understand your concern about Mr. Letterman’s inappropriate comments. Olive Garden screens network television programs whenever possible. Telecasts, such as The Late Show with David Letterman, are taped on a daily basis, preventing advertisers from reviewing the content prior to airing. We apologize that Mr. Letterman’s mistake, which was not consistent with our standards and values, left you with a bad impression of Olive Garden. There will be no more Olive Garden ads scheduled for The Late Show with David Letterman in this year’s broadcast schedule.

There’s more … it’s confusing. Olive Garden tells the NY Times no decision has been made yet but the customer e-mail is pretty clear.

But it gets better (worse?) Hot Air also reports that Unilever which owns Hellman’s is pulling its ads.

We appreciate the feedback from our consumers and we’ve decided to pull our online ads from the Letterman show from our advertising schedule moving forward.

Take the Hot Air Poll. We will ry to stay on top of this.

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Jim Vicevich

Jim is a veteran broadcaster and conservative/libertarian blogger with more than 25 years experience in TV and radio. Jim's was the long-term host of The Jim Vicevich Show on WTIC 1080 in Hartford from 2004 through 2019. Prior to radio, Jim worked as a business and financial reporter for NBC30 - the NBC owned TV station in Hartford - and as business editor at WFSB-TV in Hartford for 14 years while earning six Emmy nominations and three Telly Awards.


  1. skepticalcynic on June 18, 2009 at 9:03 am

    I have no problem whatsoever with OG dropping Letterman. Why?

    1. Because hes about as funny as a toothache. Well, hes better than Leno, but so is drying paint.

    2. I like it when guys who I can't stand get boned.

    3. And this is STRICTLY a ECONOMIC, CAPITALISTIC move. It has NOTHING to do with the folks at OG believing and agreeing or not with Lettermans joke. Its an "Italian" chain which serves much of america. They are worried about their customers voting with their pocketbook. This was a move by a capitalistic entity with ONLY the bottom line on thier mind.

    I don't understand how this is bad. The battlefield of business is ALWAYS bloody.

    • DuffTerrall on June 18, 2009 at 9:29 am

      Quite concur with skepticalcynic. Were it the government defining content (Fairness Doctrine?) it would be absolutely unacceptable, but in this case it is a company that targets a certain demographic responding to a complaint by a customer who was honestly offended. If there are other companies who do not mind being associated with such an image, then they are welcome to air and advertise on his show.

      This seems to me simply to be a matter of the market working exactly as it is supposed to.

  2. skepticalcynic on June 18, 2009 at 10:23 am

    I had NO problem with Imus losing his job, he overestimated his capitalistic clout and lost. Imus forgot that he had his show because of his sponsers, not because he was talented, or funny or cutting edge, it was simply because companies thought he could help them sell their product, thats all. The only pathetic part was his "servicing" someone as nauseating as "reverend" sharpton in a last ditch effort to save his job, all the tough guy talk out the window.

    Wouldn't it be great if letterman were reduced to the same pathetic position, perhaps pleading his case in front of Sean Hannity, asking for forgiveness because his job was on the line? It would never happen, but it would be the ONLY time I would ever watch his show again.

  3. skepticalcynic on June 18, 2009 at 10:25 am

    Thanks duff, for explaining it much better and concisely than I ever could.

  4. tjproudamerican on June 18, 2009 at 10:39 am

    I am a Liberal and I make it a point NEVER to boycott or in any way, shape, or form punish advertisers of Sean Hannity, FoxNews, Rush Limbaugh, or even Michael Savage.

    Free Speech under threat of boycotts means NON Free Speech.

    As you wisely note, this is a road nobody should go down. Left wing and liberal and progressive types are wrong when they do it, and for what it is worth (my influence is just slightly less than any other living being) I say so. And I say it again here.

  5. skepticalcynic on June 18, 2009 at 11:21 am

    Sorry, tjp

    I STRONGLY disagree. My money is MINE. And if I don't like you FOR ANY REASON,I'm not giving you my money. Now that reason could be politically correct or NOT, but its MINE and ONLY MINE, to do with what I choose to do.

    ANd, freedom of speech means you are free from INCARCERATION (in most cases. Free speech DOESN'T mean you can say what you want and others are unable to react. You open your mouth, you hurt your business…..don;'t open your mouth. Tv personalities are so into their own importance, they CONSTANTLY seem to forget that. Thats why the little guy can say more.

    But, if you choose NOT to boycott, that your choice, as legitimate as it is for me TO boycott.

  6. Jim Vicevich on June 18, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    This is among the best back and forth I have read in the comments section. I don't normally jump in as the long timers will tell you … but I just wanted to sign on and say … these comments on this post impressed me and made for fun reading. Keep it up folks. I would like the comments section to be as important as the posts. Remember short … to the point … entertaining. Thanks again.

  7. Jim Vicevich on June 18, 2009 at 2:12 pm

    And yes … I read the comments.

  8. DuffTerrall on June 18, 2009 at 6:33 pm

    Free speech is a far cry from immoderated speech. When it comes to opinions, there is a way to say just about anything in a manner that allows for honest disagreement while still demonstrating respect. In the case of folks such as Imus and Letterman, though, they presented themselves in a way that not only could have been easily predicted to draw a negative reaction, but also in a way that showed nothing but contempt for the other viewpoint.

    To a point, the nature of entertainment demands this, since sometimes you just don't want to watch a debate. At the same point, though, there are certain things that are just sensitive issues, and if someone is going to be approach these issues in a careless manner they are foolish to not expect to get burned for doing so.

  9. skepticalcynic on June 18, 2009 at 10:38 pm

    Thank you, Jim. It's appreciated.

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