The Olive Garden restaurant chain is denying that it canceled all of its scheduled ads on CBS late night comic David Letterman’s “Late Show” in response to a crude joke Letterman told about Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s daughter and instead contends that its ad schedule concluded.
POLITICO reported Thursday that the company would pull its remaining television spots and was emailing Letterman critics with a note informing them that “there will be no more Olive Garden ads scheduled for ‘The Late Show’ with David Letterman in this year's broadcast schedule,” citing the talk show host’s “inappropriate comments.”
“We apologize that Mr. Letterman’s mistake, which was not consistent with our standards and values, left you with a bad impression of Olive Garden,” wrote Sherri Bruen, the company’s guest relations manager.
Bruen said the company “screens network television programs whenever possible,” but explained that “telecasts, such as ‘The Late Show’ with David Letterman, are taped on a daily basis, preventing advertisers from reviewing the content prior to airing.”
Olive Garden’s manager of media relations, who asked not to be quoted on the record, confirmed to POLITICO Thursday that the emails were sent by the restaurant chain, and also confirmed that the company would be pulling its remaining television spots on the program for the rest of the year when asked that question.
But in a statement released later in the day, Olive Garden Director of Media Relations Rich Jeffers disputed POLITICO’s report as “erroneous.”
“No authorized spokesperson for the company confirmed the information in his report,” Jeffers said. “The Olive Garden media schedule is planned months in advance. The schedule for the Late Show with David Letterman was completed earlier this month. We take all guest concerns seriously. And, as always, we will factor those concerns in as we plan our advertising schedule in the future.”
When asked about the cancellation confirmation POLITICO obtained from the company’s media relations office, Jeffers responded in an email that the individual listed as the press contact on the company’s website was unauthorized to speak for the company.
“The so called ‘confirmation’ didn’t come from an authorized spokesperson for the company. The guest email you received did not say any ads were pulled. And as our statement says, the schedule — which is set months in advance — was completed earlier this month.”
// CBS did not return several calls seeking comment.
Letterman has apologized for his comment last week about Palin’s daughter getting “knocked up by Alex Rodriguez” during the governor’s recent visit to a Yankees baseball game. Palin attended the game as part of a trip to New York.
“I told a joke that was beyond flawed, and my intent is completely meaningless compared to the perception,” Letterman said. “And since it was a joke I told, I feel that I need to do the right thing here and apologize for having told that joke.”
After repeatedly blasting the late night comic in statements and interviews last week, Palin accepted Letterman’s apology on Tuesday.
“Letterman certainly has the right to ‘joke’ about whatever he wants to, and thankfully we have the right to express our reaction,” she said in a statement.