Miller Brewing Apologizes for 'Last Supper' Poster

By Randy Hall | July 7, 2008 | 8:06 PM EDT

( - The Miller Brewing Company issued a formal apology on Friday for any offense caused by the use of its logos on a poster promoting the Folsom Street Fair in San Francisco during late September by replacing Jesus and his disciples in Leonardo Da Vinci's painting of "The Last Supper" with half-naked homosexual sadomasochists.

In an email statement sent to Cybercast News Service by Senior Manager of Media Relations Julian Green, the company said it "has taken action to ensure that such an incident will not happen again."

"Miller has just completed an exhaustive audit of its marketing procedures for approving local marketing and sales sponsorships, and it is implementing plans to tighten its compliance procedures," the release stated.
Folsom Street Fair poster
"The company has received assurances from its local distributor in San Francisco and from Folsom Street Events that future marketing materials and event activities will fully comply with Miller's marketing policies and procedures," the statement added.

"We deeply regret that we did not adhere to our own policies with regard to the Folsom Street Fair," said Miller Senior Vice President Nehl Horton. "We apologize to everyone we offended as a result. We hope people will forgive us for this serious error and have confidence we will not repeat it."

"Miller Brewing was never afforded the opportunity to review our Fair poster before it was printed and distributed," said Andy Copper, board president of Folsom Street Events, which sponsors the "world's largest leather event" every year. "The approval was made by a third party without Miller's knowledge and consent."

Copper also issued an apology on behalf of the organization which distributed the controversial poster.

"I would like to apologize to anyone who felt that the image was disrespectful to their religious beliefs," said Copper. "No malicious intent was involved."

In addition to issuing a formal public apology, Miller sent letters of apology to Catholic archbishops George Niederauer of San Francisco and Timothy Dolan of Milwaukee.

"Like all major brewers, Miller seeks to market respectfully to a wide and diverse array of consumers," Horton concluded. "But when one group actively disrespects another, we cannot support its events and activities."

As Cybercast News Service previously reported, the poster first drew attention - and criticism - from the conservative group Concerned Women for America on Sept. 25.

"'Gay' activists disingenuously call Christians 'haters' and 'homophobes' for honoring the Bible, but then lash out in this hateful manner toward the very people they accuse," said Matt Barber, CWA's policy director for cultural issues, at the time.

Within 24 hours, Miller Brewing Company asked to have its logo removed from the advertisement even though Copper said there was no intention "to be particularly pro-religion or anti-religion with this poster; the image is intended only to be reminiscent of the 'Last Supper' painting."

On Sept. 26, the Catholic League for Religious Civil Rights issued a press release expressing outrage that Miller still supported the event despite the fact that a portion of the money raised by the festival was going to the Sisters of Perpetual Indulgence, an anti-Catholic group that held a fundraiser entitled "The Last Supper With the Sisters."

The following day, Catholic League President Bill Donohue announced that his organization was boycotting Miller Brewing Company products and urged more than 200 other religious organizations to do the same.

A Cybercast News Service investigation determined that some of the funding for the festival came from a city program to support "parades and celebrations," as well as a "Zero Waste" grant from the San Francisco Department of the Environment to promote "recycling, materials reuse and waste reduction for municipal, commercial and residential clients."

On Sept. 28, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) - whose district is host to the event, which draws about 300,000 attendees each year - said: "I do not believe that Christianity has been harmed by the Folsom Street Fair advertising."

According to the event's Web site, the 2007 festival drew record attendance and therefore was "a total success." Next year's street fair is scheduled to be held on Sunday, Sept. 27, 2008.

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