• PTC to Robert Gibbs: Will You Carry Administration’s “Moral Disapprobation” of Sexual Violence to New Role at McDonald’s?

    by  • June 18, 2015 • Advertiser Accountability • 21 Comments


    Last week, McDonald’s hired former White House spokesperson Robert Gibbs to act as Global Chief Communications Officer.

    PTC Advisory Board Member Gary Lesser sent a letter to Gibbs, reminding him of the strong stance the administration he once represented took against sexual assault on college campuses; and urging him to make a priority of addressing McDonald’s history of sponsoring programs that trivialize sexual assault.

    The letter read, in part:

    How can a company that sells Happy Meals to children use its media dollars to sponsor jokes about sexually assaulting children?  And from a consumer marketing standpoint, why would that same company reasonably expect families to purchase the company’s products?  A strong and immediate commitment by the company not to associate its hard-earned brand image with jokes about raping children would help to restore the trust that many families feel has been violated.  And there can be no doubt that such a commitment would have an immediate and positive impact on the corporation’s bottom line.

    During your tenure as White House Press Secretary, the Administration made tremendous strides in raising awareness of the epidemic of sexual assault on college campuses, and challenging schools and administrators to combat the problem.

    Today one in five women report being sexually assaulted on college campuses, and 76 colleges and universities are under federal investigation for not doing enough to protect victims of sexual violence.  Yet McDonald’s has invested millions of its media dollars to sponsor programming that jokes about such violence.  We understand the need for the company’s marketing messages to reach a desired audience demographic.  Cannot this be done without sponsoring jokes about sexual assault?

    In announcing new guidelines for schools in dealing with sexual violence, Vice President Biden said, “It’s not sufficient to have criminal enforcement. We must at every single level of our society make clear the moral disapprobation of society at every level for such behavior.”

    I have no doubt that you share the Vice President’s commitment to showing that as a society, we deplore such behavior.

    And so I have great hope that as you step into your new role at McDonald’s, you will make a priority of addressing McDonald’s association with entertainment programs that trivialize rape, sexual assault, and molestation. When our entertainment media trivializes – and even asks us to laugh at – horrific acts like sexual assault, they are helping to foster a culture in which rape seems less intolerable or less deplorable.

    A growing body of research has documented the desensitizing effect that exposure to this kind of messaging can have on the viewer. Sexually violent content in movies has been found to increase acceptance of violence against women, increased acceptance of rape myths and victim blaming. Other studies have found that repetitive exposure to movies that include sexual violence against women is associated with men’s increased enjoyment of the content.

    That is to say, when television treats the victimization, sexualization and exploitation of children as nothing of consequence, people are more inclined to think it’s nothing of consequence.

    Girls who are exposed to these messages are more willing to accept harassment and abuse; men are more apt to believe such behavior is okay; and the rest of society becomes comfortably numb to a culture of sexualization and abuse.

    McDonald’s is a corporate giant and a global leader with billions to spend on advertising. But with that position and influence comes a tremendous responsibility to be a responsible corporate citizen. If McDonald’s refuses to underwrite programming that trivializes sexual violence, it sends a loud and clear message to the networks and to other advertisers. And the message it sends the public is deafening.

    Your challenge, as you step into your new role as Global Chief Communications Officer, will be to once again cast McDonald’s, in the eyes of the world, as an ethical company that cares about the communities it serves.

    Will McDonald’s continue to underwrite programs that trivialize sexual violence? Or will McDonald’s “make clear the moral disapprobation of society at every level for such behavior”?

    You have an opportunity now to make a lasting and positive impact on the culture for this generation and perhaps even generations to come. Thank you very much for your consideration of this letter and I look forward to hearing back from you at your earliest convenience.

    That letter is already making waves, as is evidenced by this story in the Chicago Tribune, and this story in the Palm Beach Post.

    Where a company runs its ads is as much a part of the message as the content of the ad itself. If McDonald’s wants to improve ad performance and help its bottom line, it should not be seen to support programs that trivialize sexual violence, especially sexual violence against children.

    Want to let McDonald’s know how you feel about its TV ads? Join us by sending a message directly to McDonald’s (click here).





    Ms. Henson is a noted expert on entertainment industry trends and the how the impact of entertainment affects children and the American popular culture at large. She also directs the organization’s Advertiser Accountability Campaign, which encourages companies to sponsor family-friendly entertainment. She previously supervised the research and program content analysis operations of the PT and produced a number of groundbreaking PTC studies that document the levels of graphic sex, violence and profanity on television. Some of those reports include: The Ratings Sham I & II, Dying to Entertain, Faith in a Box, The Sour Family Hour, The Blue Tube, and TV Bloodbath. She began her career with the PTC in 1997 as an entertainment analyst, documenting instances of inappropriate content on television. Ms. Henson has appeared on a variety of television shows including Fox News Channel’s The O’Reilly Factor, Your World with Neil Cavuto, The Big Story, CNN Headline News’ ShowBiz Tonight, CNBC’s On the Money, MSNBC’s Scarborough Country, and CBN’s Newswatch. She is a frequent guest on radio talk shows across the country and has been quoted extensively in news sources such asEntertainment Weekly, Time, Newsweek, The Wall Street Journal, The Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, New York Times, USA Today, New York Daily News, Boston Globe, Chicago Tribune, San Francisco Chronicle, Variety, Associated Press, Reuters, and Bloomberg. Ms. Henson is a graduate of the University of Virginia where she received a BA in Government. She resides in Falls Church, Va., with her husband and their son.

    21 Responses to PTC to Robert Gibbs: Will You Carry Administration’s “Moral Disapprobation” of Sexual Violence to New Role at McDonald’s?

    1. Lucy
      June 21, 2015 at 5:28 am

      I won’t be going to McDonald’s anymore after reading that they promote this terrible show. I can’t beleive it, since McDonald’s has been my favorite fast food restaurant since I was a little girl. I recently discovered that Wendy’s cheeseburgers taste better than McDonald’s cheeseburgers, anyway. Maybe everybody should start going there. (Wendy’s Strawberry Fields salads are excellent, too.)

    2. Jan Buckman
      June 20, 2015 at 7:27 pm

      Please, McDonald’s, don’t sponsor garbage. You purport to be kid-friendly. If so, reconsider this move. Stick with family values – not shows with questionable or outright destructive content!

    3. Ann Moore
      June 20, 2015 at 4:42 am

      McDonald’s, you are truly despicable. I have contacted everyone I know and all of my family and tod them to never ever set foot in another McDonald’s. What is the matter with you ????!!!!!
      Ann Moore

    4. Ed Lewis
      June 20, 2015 at 12:01 am

      Here I am with a whole bunch of Grandchildren who for years have loved to visit McDonalds.
      They don’t need the support that McDonalds gives to anti children programing.
      Time to find another “Happy Meal” outlet.

    5. jhriver@mac.com
      June 19, 2015 at 9:44 pm

      SAY NO TO ” FAMILY GUY! ” What a misnomer!!!!!!! Disgusting,immoral show!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    6. June 19, 2015 at 2:34 pm


    7. James Yates
      June 19, 2015 at 12:46 pm

      Why any one would finance a show that makes a mockery of family values and is out and out perversion is beyond belief.
      We don’t patronize McDonalds a lot but when we are on a trip it’s usually where we eat. But if this is what McDonalds
      has come to you won’t get any more of our business.

    8. Kathryn Judd
      June 19, 2015 at 11:28 am

      Families patronize your business. I am sure their money is a large portion of what you receive. I think that you do not thing seriously about what your customers prefer their children to watch on TV. If you did consider this you would not sponsor something that is so Family unfriendly and unfriendly for many, many adults also. Would you let your children or your grandchildren view such garbage?

    9. Dusty
      June 19, 2015 at 11:05 am

      Shocked! Honestly I have never seen this show and had no idea about what they got into and that McDonalds with kids meals etc. paid to advertise WHY? As an old lady now retired RN , Widow raised 3 kids and went to McDonalds for years do not understand their marketing dept who is running this a bunch of weirdos ? Hope this is dropped and I will not go to McDonalds where I love the fattening french fries until I know they are not any longer doing this? I could about throw up? What is the bottom line today to supposedly make money and WHY?

    10. Leanne
      June 19, 2015 at 9:21 am

      I frequent McDonald’s at least 3-4 Xs per week, if not more. However, In light of this information, I will no longer go there if they continue to support such an offensive show, as the family guy. This needs to stop immediately! They joke about children being raped, molested and sexually assaulted? That is unconscienable! I will not support such an establishment!

    11. Bruce
      June 19, 2015 at 9:13 am

      McDonalds, if you want my business, drop your ads on Family Guy. Simple as that.

    12. Jane Nichols
      June 19, 2015 at 8:54 am

      My 5 year old and 7 year old Grandchildren made the decision they will not eat another Happy Meal at Mc Donalds until they stop advertising on dirty programs. I talked to them about it as they love McDonalds and they made the decision themselves.

    13. Marty
      June 19, 2015 at 8:02 am

      I just read an article that McDonald’s will be closing more stores that it is opening this year for the first time in years. Do you think you advertising policy might have some impact on this situation. Family values matter.

    14. June 19, 2015 at 7:44 am

      McDonald’s should try to promote programs which are family-oriented with good morals. We do not need you to
      spend money on programs that do not convey positive actions to the children as there is enough of it on media
      and TV programs. It is sad to know that the you are not contentious enough to promote good examples instead
      of negative ones that adhere to children minds.

    15. Susan
      June 19, 2015 at 7:08 am

      I would tell him to watch a few episodes to see how disgusting, sick and preverted Family Guy is. He’d pull the ads real quick, that’s for sure.

    16. Vicki Cassidy
      June 19, 2015 at 6:45 am

      How can you sleep at night? Do you have children that you would like to protect or do you let your children watch this program? Hmmm. Yes, those of us that have the time and knowledge to protect our children can take the time to put child protection prompts on our televisions to protect them. However, why should we have to do this? Why do the networks have to show violence over kindness? Because they all only want money. They don’t care about the poor, the less gifted, the less fortunate who don’t have the knowledge to protect their children. These less fortunate may be addicted to drugs, alcohol, or people that are working two jobs in order to take care of their children. The children are who we need to protect.

      Why can’t you do help protect the children. The children that will lead or country one day. OR is it in your best interests as well as many others to simply “MAKE YOUR PILES OF MONEY”, “FILL YOUR POCKETS WITH MORE MONEY”, “BUILD A BIGGER HOUSE”, “drive an expensive car” on and on and on. Doesn’t seem like a difficult decison to me. Stop contributing to this horribly wrong show.

      Thank you for reading.

    17. Jerome
      June 19, 2015 at 6:42 am

      exploting children is really low in character. You should be ashamed. God will get you.

    18. Vincent L. Maola
      June 19, 2015 at 6:00 am

      I encourage anyone I know to STAY AWAY FROM McDONALD’S as long as they advertise on these shows. And, we glorify Seth Mc Farland by having him host an awards show. I do not watch any ‘cartoon show’ & definitely would never use electricity to watch anything of McFarland.

      • Heidi
        June 19, 2015 at 10:36 am

        No more McDonald’s for my family of 8 until they get their act together!
        We stand with the innocent children as God commands us to do.

    19. Joyce Raby
      June 19, 2015 at 5:36 am

      Kids imitate adults in a very real way. Don’t be a negative influence for them. Be a very real positive influence for all children.

    20. greg voigt
      June 19, 2015 at 5:03 am

      Get back to your family oriented roots McD

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