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Italian airline Alitalia 'deeply apologizes' for Obama video showing an actor in blackface

By KIM WILLIS | USA Today | Published: July 6, 2019

(Tribune News Service) — An Italian airline has scuttled its promotional video featuring an actor in blackface as former President Barack Obama and apologized for the offensive clip.

The video, part of Alitalia's social media campaign for a new Rome-to-Washington route, was met with stunned disbelief when the airline shared it across social channels.

"Alitalia deeply apologizes for the offense," the airline said in a statement sent to USA TODAY, saying it has since removed the video. The airline also tweeted an apology Wednesday "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 New York Times reports that an airline representative at first defended the controversial video when negative comments erupted on Facebook, noting that the actor wasn't white and that "makeup was applied to highlight (his) features."

The airline claims the video was removed from social media promptly.

Twitter users were quick to react.

"Words fail me," wrote Alberto Riva, managing editor of the travel news site The Points Guy.

"Alitalia dropped an ad featuring a white actor in blackface portraying President Obama. In 2019. Read that again," tweeted activist April Reign, creator of the #OscarsSoWhite hashtag.

Numerous brands have courted controversy in recent months with design choices that customers complained resembled blackface, the racist practice of darkening one's complexion with makeup.

In February, Gucci discontinued a black turtleneck sweater with a red-rimmed cutout for the mouth, and Katy Perry's eponymous shoe collection dropped two pairs of black shoes embellished with eyes and exaggerated red lips. Burberry apologized that same month for sending a model down the runway at London Fashion Week in a hoodie featuring a drawstring knotted into a noose.

Last December, Prada stopped selling its Otto charm, a monkey-like figure with red lips.    

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