Is Rachael Ray, the talk-show host, cookbook author and magazine editor, a terrorist sympathizer?
Dunkin' Donuts, worried that its customers might think so, abruptly yanked an ad in which Ray wears a scarf that resembles a keffiyeh -- a traditional headdress worn by Arab men -- after conservative commentators became enraged by the ad and even threatened to boycott the company.
Ray, who signed on as the company's pitchwoman last March, will continue to appear in other ads and commercials.
The controversial ad, which appeared earlier this month on the doughnut chain's Web site to promote its iced coffee, came under fire nearly two weeks ago when pro-Jewish blogger Pam Geller posted it under the headline "Rachel [sic] Ray: Dunkin Donuts Jihad Tool."
"Have you seen Rachel [sic] Ray wearing the icon of Yasser Arafatbastard and the bloody Islamic jihad," Geller wrote. "This is part of the cultural jihad."
Fox News commentator Michelle Malkin took up the cause last week, when she wrote on her Web site michellemalkin.com: "The keffiyeh, for the clueless, is the traditional scarf of Arab men that has come to symbolize murderous Palestinian jihad. Popularized by Yasser Arafat and a regular adornment of Muslim terrorists appearing in beheading and hostage-taking videos, the apparel has been mainstreamed by both ignorant (and not so ignorant) fashion designers, celebrities and left-wing icons."
After pulling the ad May 24, Dunkin' Donuts issued a statement from Margie Myers, senior vice president of communications for Dunkin' Brands: "In a recent online ad, Rachael Ray is wearing a black-and-white silk scarf with a paisley design. It was selected by the stylist for the advertising shoot. Absolutely no symbolism was intended. However, as of this past weekend, we are no longer using the online ad because the possibility of misperception detracted from its original intention to promote our iced coffee."
Ray's publicist Charlie Dougiello wrote in a e-mail, "This is a nonstory."
He confirmed that Ray was wearing a black and white scarf with a paisley floral design that was chosen by the stylist for the shoot and echoed Dunkin's statement. "Absolutely no symbolism was intended," he said. "However, given the possibility of misperception, Dunkin is no longer using the commercial."
Debbie Schlussel, a Detroit attorney who writes a daily column for her conservative Web site debbieschlussel.com., said, "I think they [Dunkin' Donuts] ought to be applauded for that."
But Laila Al-Qatami, spokeswoman for the American-Arab Anti-Discrimination League, a Washington-based civil rights and cultural organization, believes that this is all much ado about nothing. "I think Dunkin' Donuts jumped the gun," she said, adding that the scarf's mere resemblance to a keffiyeh makes the company's action seem "unreasonable."
Al-Qatami says the real keffiyeh has been worn for decades by Arab men to protect their heads from the heat. More recently, the black keffiyeh has become associated with the Palestinian people because of Arafat's frequent use of it.