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JC Penney CEO Backs Ellen Degeneres After Conservative Group Calls for Boycott

JC Penney executives are standing behind Ellen Degeneres, the clothing company’s new spokesperson, after a conservative group launched a boycott on the clothing store for “jumping on the pro-gay bandwagon.”

The group, One Million Moms, called on JC Penney to fire Degeneres, saying the company should remain “neutral in the culture war.”

But JC Penney CEO Ron Johnson said Thursday he won’t replace Degeneres. On CBS, he stood behind the new spokesperson:

We stand squarely behind Ellen as our spokesperson and that's a great thing, because she shares the same values that we do in our company. Our company was founded 110 years ago on The Golden Rule, which is about treating people fair and square, just like you would like to be treated yourself. And we think Ellen represents the values of our company and the values that we share.

This isn’t the first time One Million Moms has pulled these kinds of stunts. Last fall, they campaigned against Macy’s for selling a wedding cake topper with two men. One Million Moms is a part of the American Family Association, which has attacked Home Depot recently for participating in gay pride events; they also take credit for successfully pressuring Lowe’s to pull advertising from TLC’s All American Muslim series.

In a statement, One Million Moms argues that JC Penney should remain “neutral in the culture war.”

“Degeneres is not a true representation of the type of families that shop at their store,” the statement says. “The majority of JC Penney shoppers will be offended and choose to no longer shop there.”

On her show this week, Degeneres celebrated the news that California’s Prop 8, which banned gay marriage, was declared unconstitutional by a federal appeals court, and she brought up the JC Penney controversy.

 “My haters are my motivators,” Degeneres said, poking fun at One Million Moms and thanking her supporters. The talk show host said she was happy that JC Penney was standing behind her.

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“Honesty, equality, kindness, compassion, treating people the way you want to be treated, and helping those in need,” she said. “To me those are traditional values; that’s what I stand for.”

Degeneres even got an unlikely supporter—conservative talk show host Bill O’Reilly.

During a segement on the boycott on his show The O’Reilly Factor, O’Reilly wasn’t able to find a spokesperson from One Million Moms willing to talk. Instead, he brought on another anti-gay commentator.

The commentator, Sandy Rios, agreed with One Million Moms’s issues, saying they’re “seeing homosexuality so embedded in our culture in alarming ways” and claiming that JC Penney is trying “to mainstream something that is not acceptable.”

O’Reilly argued that the One Million Moms boycott effort is comparable to McCarthyism, calling it a “witch hunt” and saying it “isn’t the spirit of America to fire her.”

On Thursday, Degeneres thanked O’Reilly, saying: “You didn't really make it clear if you were going to shop at JC Penney or not, but if you do, you can use my employee discount any time you want. That's for you Bill. Thank you so much.”

Dahlia Grossman-Heinze is a reporter-blogger for Campus Progress. Follow her on Twitter @salvadordahlia.

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