CRUSADE AGAINST CONDIMENT AD ELICITED OUTRAGE FROM CATHOLICS Prior to Bill Donohue leading his Republican smear campaign against John Edwards, the President of the Catholic League was most famous for accusing the Lipton corporation of perpetrating an anti-Catholic "atrocity" in...

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Jeffrey Feldman, Editor-in-Chief
Frameshop, 02/12/2007


Prior to Bill Donohue leading his Republican smear campaign against John Edwards, the President of the Catholic League was most famous for accusing the Lipton corporation of perpetrating an anti-Catholic "atrocity" in the form of--an onion dip commercial.

For those who missed it, Lipton ran a print ad in the June 13, 2001 edition of The New York Press featuring a person holding a bowl of onion dip while waiting in line to take communion--the implication being that this person planned to dip the Eucharist in the onion dip.

Reasonable humor?  Clever Madison Avenue marketing?  Not according to Bill Donohue.  In his eyes, the onion dip ad was an anti-Catholic "atrocity."   

In a sternly worded press release, Donohue claimed that the ad offended "the [central Catholic] belief that the Eucharist is the body and blood of Jesus Christ," and then referred to Lipton's parent company Unilever as a "monster," adding that "For the elites at  Unilever to allow their ad department at Lipton to insult Catholics like this is the height of corporate arrogance. And stupidity."

Donohue later claimed that the onion dip ad was one of the "Ten Worst Anti-Catholic Atrocities of 2001." 

While the Unilver company quickly caved to Donohue's condiment crusade, the same could not be said for American Catholics who responded to Donohue's onion dip ad campaign by calling him the real atrocity.

Donohue's "Ten Worst Anti-Catholic Atrocities" cited the onion dip controversy as the sixth worst atrocity of the year with this paragraph:

An ad for Lipton in an alternative weekly New York newspaper showed a picture of a man waiting in line for Holy Communion holding a bowl of Lipton’s onion dip. The priest was shown holding up the host to the first person on line who was about to receive. The man, of course, was prepared to dunk the host in the dip. At the corner of the ad was a picture of the Lipton “Recipe Secrets” that featured the onion dip.

(full text of article here)

While the editorial staff of the America was respectful enough of Donohue's work to humor him and publish the article,  the readership of America was not so kind.

In a letter bearing the aptly laconic title "Onion Dip," Baya Clare of St. Paul, MN wrote the following in reaction to Donohue's list of atrocities:

I must have missed the day in the novitiate when we received our battle orders to go out and fight the “scourge of anti-Catholicism” detailed in William A. Donohue’s report from the Catholic League (2/18). Here I’d been thinking I was supposed to be loving my dear neighbor and trying to see the face of Christ in everyone I meet, when all this time I should have been scouring the press and compiling a lot of little picky insults to put in an annual report! Of course confronting the question of whether to have poinsettias in the county courthouse is a lot more likely to bring about the kingdom than confronting the county commissioner who wants to tear down affordable housing. Obviously I’ll have to do less of the latter so I can start devoting more attention to offensive ads for onion dip. I’d hate to think I wasn’t fulfilling my vocation.

In a letter titled "Verification"--an even more complete take-down of the Catholic League anti-Catholicism campaign--Chris Wiseman of New Orleans, LA turned the tables on the whole idea of "atrocities" as used by Donohue [emphasis mine]:

Thank you for attempting to document religious bigotry by publishing the “The Ten Worst Anti-Catholic Atrocities of 2001,” by William A. Donohue (2/18). I hope that recent events have recommitted us all to the principle of religious freedom.

However, as a Catholic and even as a longtime America reader, I will unfortunately have to obtain verification of the events cited by Mr. Donohue from sources I can trust.

As you may remember, Mr. Donohue and the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights were vociferous and effective in their condemnation of the ABC television series “Nothing Sacred” in 1997-98. This weekly, hour-long series was the best thing about our church I have ever seen on television. Although it may never have gained an audience satisfactory to network executives, the show was undoubtedly harmed by Mr. Donohue’s boycott efforts against major advertisers.

I know from shared viewings and discussions with Catholics and other Christians that “Nothing Sacred” was a tremendous asset for Catholicism in America. When the program was canceled, our church lost a positive media presence. In my opinion, Mr. Donohue was partly responsible for one of the worst anti-Catholic atrocities of 1998.

I love your magazine and respect Mr. Donohue’s right to an opinion. But I will never trust his bluster, even in America.

It says quite a bit when the readership of the leading Catholic weekly magazine in the country not only rejects Donohue's onion dip atrocity campaign, but actually responds to it by describing Donohue himself as an anti-Catholic atrocity.

Unfortunately, Donohue's well-documented record of embarrassing American Catholics has not stopped well-known dips in the mainstream media--Tucker Carlson and Larry Kudlow in particular--from inviting him on television to spout off about anti-Catholic atrocities supposedly committed by Democratic presidential campaigns.

Thankfully, Democratic candidates for President have much more courage than the Unilever Corporation who once caved to Donohue's nonsense. 

With any luck,  the mainstream media will be the next to find its courage and never invite Donohue back as an "expert" on Catholicism every again.

The more airtime Donohue is given, the more embarrassment he will no doubt cause the American Catholic community. And if that happens, the blame should like squarely on the media outlets that gave him an open platform to lay out his chips and dip.

©  2007 Jeffrey Feldman, Frameshop

© Jeffrey Feldman 2007, Frameshop

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