Conservative pressure fails to break up JCP and Ellen

NEW YORK — Social conservatives and gay rights activists came to blows last week over JCPenney's choice of Ellen DeGeneres as a company spokeswoman.

Though DeGeneres, who is a lesbian, enjoys widespread popularity as the host of her own daytime talk show, some thought her representing a "family-friendly" brand like JCPenney was going too far. The group One Million Moms, an extension of the conservative American Family Association group, asked the retailer to dump DeGeneres as a spokeswoman and derided the company for not being "neutral in the culture war."

"Funny that JCPenney thinks hiring an open homosexual spokesperson will help their business when most of their customers are traditional families. More sales will be lost than gained unless they replace their spokesperson quickly," the group posted on their website. It also urged supporters to call their local JCPenney store manager to lodge complaints against hiring DeGeneres.

JCPenney did not yield to pressure from the group, and in an e-mailed statement reported by Reuters, said, "JCPenney stands behind its partnership with Ellen DeGeneres" and added that its announcement of the agreement sums up the retailer’s feelings of the TV personality.

JCPenney announced its partnership with DeGeneres on Jan. 25 as part of its new strategy, which was unveiled during a special media day in New York. Regarding DeGeneres, Michael Francis described her as "one of the most fun and vibrant people in entertainment today, with great warmth and a down-to-earth attitude."