NEW YORK CBS got a little taste of its own reality. Lowe's has vowed not to advertise on future episodes of the reality show Big Brother 9 because of a defamatory comment a contestant made about people with autism.
On the episode, which aired Feb. 13, Adam Janinski said he hoped to win the competition so he could open a hair salon "so retards can get it together and get their hair done."
When a cast member chastised him, Janinski said, "Disabled kids. I can call them whatever I want. I work with them all day, okay?" Janinski works for the United Autism Foundation of Florida.
John Gilmore, executive director of a group called Autism United (which is not affiliated with Janinski's organization), reached out to CBS demanding an apology following the show's airing. He also contacted many of the advertisers that appeared during that episode, including Lowe's, Campbell's Soup, Claritin, Geico, McDonald's and Taco Bell.
Lowe's rep Karen Cobb said, "Once it was brought to our attention, we decided not to advertise [on Big Brother] further." Cobb added that although the company aired an ad during the Feb. 13 show, it does not routinely advertise on Big Brother. Lowe's spent more than $400 million in media last year, per Nielsen Monitor-Plus.
"We're delighted Lowe's is doing the responsible thing. These companies are very careful about developing their brand image and relationships with their customers," said Gilmore. "Being associated with Big Brother and the comments made on the show is something most responsible companies should not want to deal with."
The network declined to respond about specific advertiser issues, but offered this general statement:
"As stated last week, we certainly find the statements made by Adam to be offensive, but believe they were countered by the immediate reaction of shock and condemnation from a fellow houseguest (Sheila). Adam's remarks would not have been permitted to air unchallenged.
"Big Brother is a reality show about watching a group of people who have no privacy 24/7 -- and seeing every moment of their lives. At times, the Houseguests reveal prejudices and other beliefs that we do not condone. Any views or opinions expressed in personal commentary by a Houseguest appearing on Big Brother, either on any live feed from the House or the broadcast, are those of the individual(s) speaking and do not represent the views or opinions of CBS or the producers of the program."
Message boards, including CBS.com's, have been abuzz with anger regarding the comment. One post at CBS.com said of Janinski: "As the parent of two children with autism, I'm simply amazed that people are so insensitive...I'm certain that he won't have his job when he returns to his 'normal life.'"