Pizza Hut threatens libel suit over TV ad
WASHINGTON, D.C. — In mid-July Pizza Hut, a subsidiary of PepsiCo, threatened four Washington, D.C., television stations with a libel suit if they ran a commercial that attacked the company’s health care policy, the Washington Post reported.
The stations — WRC, WTTG, WJLA and WUSA — refused to run the commercial, which charged that although Pizza Hut pays for its workers’ insurance in other countries, it “pays no health insurance” for many workers in the United States.
Spokespersons for two of the stations refused to discuss the matter with the Post; WJLA and WRC said the threatening letter had no impact on their decision not to run the ads, sponsored by the Health Care Reform Project.
The Post and the New York Times published full-page print versions of the ad. In a late July editorial, the Times defended the accuracy of the ad. The paper noted that Pizza Hut’s hourly employees must pay for their own insurance for their first six months on the job, and that the company later makes a contribution only for additional coverage, not the basic health plan.
The dispute prompted Sen. Edward M. Kennedy (D. Mass.) to summon the president of Pizza Hut to a late July hearing before the Senate Committee on Labor and Human Resources. At the hearing Kennedy expressed concern about “reports of Pizza Hut’s efforts to suppress the truth about their double standard for workers.”