Guido Barilla, who controls the Barilla Group with his two brothers, has said he would not consider using a gay family to advertise Barilla pasta.
His exact words were: “For us the concept of the sacred family remains one of the basic values of the company,” he told Italian radio on Wednesday evening. “I would not do it but not out of a lack of respect for homosexuals who have the right to do what they want without bothering others … [but] I don’t see things like they do and I think the family that we speak to is a classic family.”
When questioned about the reaction his remarks would have on potential customers, he said: “Well, if they like our pasta and our message they will eat it; if they don’t like it and they don’t like what we say they will … eat another.”
Aurelio Mancuso, chairman of Equality Italia, said that Barilla was being deliberately provocative, and he intended to launch a campaign to boycott their products. Within hours, the hashtag “boicotta-barilla” was trending on Twitter.
Guido Barillan then issued a statement saying that he was sorry if his remarks had caused offence; “I apologise if my words generated misunderstandings or arguments, or if they offended the sensibilities of some people,” he said.
Later he discussed the issue of gay rights, saying that he “respected everyone” and was in favor of gay marriage but against gay adoption.
Italy lags behind many other European countries on gay rights and still does not recognize same-sex civil unions.
This whole issue has proven to be something of a PR disaster for the Barilla pasta company, and the story is by no means over.