Italian fashion clothing company Benetton became embroiled in controversy for images that it allegedly hoped would promote tolerance and understanding between nations, religions, and peoples. Digitally altered photographs depicting world leaders such as President Barack Obama and Chinese President Hu Jintao to make it appear as though they are kissing emerged as part of Benetton's new "UNHATE" ad campaign.
Besides the one described above there are others depicting French President Nicolas Sarkozy kissing his German counterpart, Angela Merkel, as well as Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas. When Vatican spokesman Rev. Federico Lombardi hinted at possible legal action over an image appearing to depict Pope Benedict in the act of kissing a Egyptian Muslim imam, Benetton pulled the ad.
William Donohue of the Catholic League addressed the issue, saying "The damage that Benetton did is done—the offensive photo of the Holy Father and the imam is posted on the Internet. Benetton has a history of not only being edgy, but of being anti-Catholic and vulgar: in 1995, its magazine Colors featured Christmas holiday ads promoting such gifts as a bull's testicles and a metal instrument used to abort unborn children. The Catholic League quickly condemned Benetton at the time." He added, "Benetton gets no points for withdrawing the pope-imam ad. It knew what it was doing, and we know from past experience what its intent was. What is particularly striking about all this is that the ad campaign was launched to promote tolerance. Guess its hatred of Catholicism is so strong that even appeals to tolerance cannot stop it from fostering intolerance."