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Networks Jokingly Highlight 'Unhate' Campaign Featuring Pope in Gay Kiss

The network morning shows on Thursday took a mostly light-hearted look at clothing company Benetton's ad campaign featuring the Pope kissing a Muslim cleric.

The ads, which have now been pulled under legal pressure, were summarized by Good Morning America's Josh Elliott. He parroted, "It was part of Benetton 's Unhate campaign, challenging people to have the courage not to hate."

Elliott described the company's removal of the ad as "bowing to pressure from the Vatican." None of the networks, however, mentioned any possible negativity from Muslims. Only NBC's Today referred to them as "very, very controversial," with fourth hour co-host Hoda Kotb blanching, "Put your breakfast down. Because you're going to want to."

Kathie Lee Giffords added, "Speaking of cringing." Of course, this didn't happen until the 10am hour.

Earlier in the program, co-anchor Ann Curry joked about the ads, asking of Matt Lauer and Al Roker, "How do you guys feel about the picture of you two kissing?" Lauer quipped, "It's okay. Which one?"

The ads also featured pictures of Barack Obama kissing Venezuela's Hugo Chavez.

GMA's Elliott narrated as the pictures appeared onscreen, "German leader Angela Merkel, shown canoodling with french President Sarkozy. I believe that was a canoodle."

He did explain that the Vatican has called the Pope image a "grave act of disrespect," but mostly kept a light tone.

A transcript of the coverage can be found below:

GMA
11/17/11
7:08

JOSH ELLIOTT: And the clothing company Benetton has bowed to pressure from the Vatican this morning, pulling its latest ad showing the Pope kissing a top Islamic leader from Egypt. The Vatican called this picture, and I quote, "a grave act of disrespect," end quote. It was part of Benetton 's Unhate campaign, challenging people to have the courage not to hate. The campaign also features, as you can see here, photoshopped pictures of President Obama kissing the President of China and even kissing Hugo Chavez of Venezuela. German leader Angela Merkel, shown canoodling with french President Sarkozy. I believe that was a canoodle.

ROBIN ROBERTS: But, Benetton is taking down just the one with the Pope or all of them?

ELLIOTT: At this point, just the one with the Pope. It remains to be seen with the rest of the campaign.

ROBERTS: We'll see.

GEORGE STEPHANOPOULOS: They've gotten a lot out of it already.

ELLIOTT: Indeed.

Early Show
11/17/11
8:02

JEFF GLOR: The Benetton clothing company is known for provocative ad campaigns, but they have now decided to pull an ad that angered the Catholic Church. The campaign called Unhate features faked photos of world leaders kissing, including one of President Obama and Venezuela's Hugo Chavez. There was also an image of Pope Benedict kissing a Muslim leader. That has now been taken down.

Today
11/17/11
7:20

SAVANNAH GUTHRIE: And a new ad campaign from the United Colors of Benetton has the Vatican threatening legal action. The unhate campaign features photoshopped pictures of world leaders kissing some of their rivals. The campaign features an image of President Obama kissing the Chinese president Hu Jintao. And another shows Israeli and Palestinian leaders. But, it was an image of Pope Benedict kissing a prominent Muslim cleric that has the Vatican furious. Benetton has now pulled that picture, but the Vatican has now condemned that ad as a grave act of disrespect.
...

ANN CURRY: How do you guys feel about the picture of you two kissing?

MATT LAUER: It's all right.

AL ROKER Yeah.

LAUER: It's okay. Which one?

10:05

HODA KOTB: There are a couple of ads out there that are there, that are very, very controversial.

KATHY LEE GIFFORDS: Speaking of cringing.

KOTB: So, get ready. Put your breakfast down. Because you're going to want to. Benetton has this ad campaign called Unhate. Now, the question is, does shock make you buy things? That is kind of what this is. They are featuring photoshopped pictures of people who are- you know people kissing, world leaders you wouldn't normally see- [Images appear onscreen.] Okay, let's move on. It doesn't have be that long. Okay, anyway-These are all photo shopped, obviously. This is their campaign of unhate. And it's-They are trying to see if you'll buy Benetton again. This is the second set of ads.

GIFFORDS: You know, I think it depends. I mean, that wouldn't make me buy Benetton at all. It would make me run the other direction. But, does shock may you buy something? [Moves on to knew topic.

— Scott Whitlock is the senior news analyst for the Media Research Center. Click here to follow him on Twitter.