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ARLINGTON, Va. — Subway franchise holders in Germany have killed a promotional tie-in to the documentary “Super Size Me” after conservative interest groups in the United States accused the campaign of fomenting “anti-American” sentiments.

Conservative groups began an Internet and letter-writing campaign late last week aimed at top Pentagon and Congressional leaders to protest tray liners that appeared in German Subway restaurants to promote the July 15 German premiere of the documentary “Super Size Me.”

In the film, which bills itself as “an irreverent look at obesity in America and one of its sources — fast food corporations,” independent filmmaker Morgan Spurlock gains 24 pounds after 30 days eating nothing but McDonald’s fast food, three times a day.

In July, the German distributor of “Super Size Me,” Prokino Filmverleih, reached an agreement with approximately 100 German Subway franchisees to provide free tray liners advertising the movie, according to Subway spokesman Les Winograd.

“Neither the German franchisees nor Subway paid for or created” the tray liners, Winograd said in a Tuesday telephone interview from Subway’s franchise headquarters in Milford, Conn.

But after receiving e-mails from U.S. expatriates, the Washington-based National Legal and Policy Center began a campaign to kill the promotion, which the center’s chairman, Ken Boehm, called “beyond the pale.”

The tray liners “were in bad taste and not the way to behave in the global community,” Boehm said in a Monday telephone interview. “You don’t want to politicize fast food, for crying out loud.”

On July 28, three Washington-based conservative interest groups sent a letter to Subway chairman Fred DeLuca that accused the Subway campaign of advancing “anti-American rhetoric and false, negative stereotypes in an already heated political environment.”

The most offensive element of the campaign, the letter to DeLuca said, is the tray liner’s cartoon depiction of a plump Statue of Liberty holding fries and a hamburger, which makes “mockery of our national symbol.”

But the notion of an ever-expanding Statue of Liberty “is a major theme in the film,” Winograd said, not something that was created specifically for the tray liners.

The groups also objected to the promotion’s “derogatory” use of the word “Ami,” as shorthand for “American,” Boehm said.

“It’s a little like calling someone from Japan a ‘Jap’,” Boehm said. “No other major U.S. corporation markets their product by making ethnic, religious, or prejudicial” references to their customers.

Winograd disagreed with the Boehm’s translation of the German phrase.

“‘Ami’ is an affectionate nickname, more like calling an American a ‘Yank’,” he said.

The National Legal and Policy Center sent similar letters of protest to Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld and members of both the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, asking them to contact Subway regarding its “anti-American advertising campaign.”

The German Subway franchisees “were very heartsick to find there was a furor,” Winograd said. The promotion “was innocuous and innocent. There was no insult intended.”


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