Italian airline Alitalia issued an apology on Wednesday after receiving major backlash for depicting Barack Obama in blackface in a four-part promo video for their newly added nonstop flight from Rome to Washington, CNN reports. The visual featured a “Where’s Waldo” theme in light of American presidents including George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Donald Trump, and Barack Obama.
“Alitalia deeply apologizes for the offense caused by the promotional video on our Washington route. It has since been removed. For our Company, respect for everyone is mandatory, it was never our intention to hurt anyone and we will learn from what has happened,” the company tweeted Wednesday afternoon.
Alitalia deeply apologizes for the offense caused by the promotional video on our Washington route. It has since been removed. For our Company, respect for everyone is mandatory, it was never our intention to hurt anyone and we will learn from what has happened.
— Alitalia (@Alitalia) July 3, 2019
The video featuring former President Obama’s actor was bombarded with comments throughout social media channels YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter in offense of the depiction and ultimately labeling the act and airline as being racist. According to the New York Times, prior to the issued apology, a representative from Alitalia responded to one of the comments in defense stating the actor portraying Obama was “not caucasian” and the makeup was nothing but a highlight job.
“Instead of blackface you can just hire (wait for it!) black actors, @Alitalia. Just another instance of a lack of inclusion in the travel space,” tweeted one user.
— Victoria M. Walker (@vikkie) July 3, 2019
“When will y’all learn that blackface is NEVER the answer ?? @Alitalia,” another user expressed.
Alitalia is the latest case of blackface use in advertising, as a couple has surfaced in recent times like Gucci with their half-faced black knit and red-lipped sweater and Prada with a now debunked red lipped monkey bag charm. And, let’s not forget H&M’s 2018 “coolest monkey in the jungle” choice of model outrage. As of 2019, there is an expectation of fashion brands to be conscious of their designs placing offensive upon selecting groups of people, especially that of the Black race.