We do make a difference! Just look at how our efforts changed things big and small in 2014. In just one year we were able to educate those in the media and elsewhere about what it means to be an Italian American. We also put others on notice that we are watching and will no longer sit still when our heritage is attacked.
Our biggest victory came following an inappropriate remark made by ‘Meet The Press’ host Chuck Todd. Soon after calling the race for Congress in Staten Island a ‘mob fight’ Mr. Todd and the executive producer of the show ‘Morning Joe’ were barraged with emails and phone calls by our many One Voice defenders. This led, a week later, to an on air apology by Mr. Todd during another broadcast of that same show. As someone who spent 35 years in radio and TV I can tell you without question that there was a discussion at the highest levels about this. Best of all Mr. Todd not only apologized on air but I am sure he has become an in-house source for other hosts about what happens when they insult the Italian American community. It was for him – and his colleagues – a ‘teachable’ moment.
Our calls and emails to Janice Lyons – the News Director at WGN in Chicago – was also a breakthrough. Even though we did not received an on air apology I am sure she was surprised to see the uproar that followed inappropriate remarks made by the show’s sports anchor and sometimes comedian. To her credit Ms. Lyons was very responsive and apologetic. Having worked in a newsroom I can say again, without question, that the sports anchor was reprimanded and all those who laughed on the set were spoken too. This time it was a partial victory – but another important ‘teachable’ moment.
In 2014 we were also almost immediately able to get a major car dealership in northern NJ to yank the controversial ‘Mafia Puppets’ TV commercial campaign. We followed up by applauding the General Sales Manager for understanding our outrage and acting immediately to correct it. When threats are made to the businesses of those who insult us things change in a hurry. I always mention the 25-million Italian American customers in the U-S they stand to lose by trying to be funny.
We also received an apology from Fiat CEO Sergio Marchionne after he made an inappropriate remark about the engine needed in his FIAT cars. It took some doing and some educating on behalf of One Voice – but in the end we got the apology for his appropriate remarks and notched another victory.
These are just some of our accomplishments. Are there some fights where we battled to a draw? Of course. But it’s important to note that we are in there battling to begin with. We are fighting and every fight gives others reason to pause before then go ahead and insult us or fall back on worn out Italian American stereotypes.
I end with what I believe is the most encouraging sign. Some of your may have seen the Rob Lowe Direct TV commercials. In them actor Rob Lowe introduces himself – and then a crazy character portrayed by Rob Lowe does the same. Both characters compare the differences between having Direct TV and not having it. There’s the ‘Conspiracy Theory’ Rob Lowe. The ‘Socially Awkward’ Rob Lowe. The ‘Creepy’ Rob Well. The ‘Overly Hairy’ Rob Lowe and so on. The latest commercial features ‘Meathead’ Rob Lowe. In it Rob Lowe portrays a fitness obsessed, muscular man who focuses only on how he looks and how big his muscles are. Even 5-years ago I believe the ad firm handling this campaign would have gone with something like ‘Guido’ Rob Lowe – or ‘Jersey Shore’ Rob Lowe – But it did not. I honestly believe that even the advertisers know Italian Americans are no longer the easy target we once were. It’s a credit to us. Let’s keep fighting but also celebrate the victories along the way.