J.C. Penney Won't Fire Ellen. Anti-Gay Group Loses Battle

Ellen DeGeneres fans and J.C. Penney stand by the talk show host.
Ellen DeGeneres fans and J.C. Penney stand by the talk show host.

A 'million' moms can't compete with 3 million daily viewers.

After JC Penney announced Ellen DeGeneres as the department store's new spokesperson last week, a conservative Christian organization launched a campaign to have her fired. Why? Because she's openly gay.

The One Million Moms organization, an extension of the American Family Association, called on members to urge the company to rethink their decision."Funny that JC Penney thinks hiring an open homosexual spokesperson will help their business when most of their customers are traditional families," reads the call to action on the group's website. "The majority of JC Penney shoppers will be offended and choose to no longer shop there."

Not likely. As one of the most popular talk show hosts on TV, with over 3 million viewers turning in each episode, Ellen has her own army of followers that transcend traditional demographics. Gay, straight, moms, dads, kids, and even television critics (she's won over 32 Emmy's), Ellen has surprised the industry's once closeted Hollywood culture by proving that talent and likability can override bigotry.

The barrier-breaking DeGeneres brand, and its patchwork fanbase, has proved a powerful marketing tool for advertiser too. Can anyone else Hollywood represent both CoverGirl and American Express?

Despite her famous relationships and bountiful lifestyle (she just bought Brad Pitt's old house), DeGeneres is one of the rare celebrities that projects groundedness and dependability. She's someone who doesn't seem like she'd lie to you, because even when her job as a sitcom star was on the line in 1997, she never did.

There will always be detractors, but that doesn't mean they need to be taken seriously. It's unclear whether the One Million Mom project actually lives up to its name in numbers. At least one blogger has infiltrated the organization as a fake member. Like other marginal groups, the organization thrives on controversy, linking its name to major companies and stars for attention.

In the fall, the One Million Moms organization campaigned against Macy's for including a wedding cake topper with two men in its catalog. Last year, its parent organization, the American Family Association, launched an attack on Home Depot for participating in gay pride events. Sometimes the applied pressure may be influential-the Florida Family Association takes credited for Loews department store pulling adds from TLC's All-American Muslims series.

But as it stands, this campaign against Ellen won't impact J.C. Penney's decision. In an emailed statement to Yahoo Shine, J.C. Penney confirmed it "stands behind its partnership with Ellen DeGeneres."

So do many of many of the department store's shoppers.

"As an American Mom in a traditional family with no gay or lesbian family members I want to respond with a big congratulations to both you and Ellen," a commenter wrote on J.C. Penney's Facebook page. "Don't let anyone tell you how to run your business. Not everyone in America is homophobic. I will continue to shop at your stores and admire your courage!!!"

Another one of over 600 largely positive messages added to the company's wall read: The 'One Million Moms' group doesn't speak for this Mom!!! I am thrilled that you have chosen to work with Ellen and am proud that your organization isn't letting bigotry stand in your way!."

Meanwhile Ellen's two million Facebook fans are doing some campaigning of their own. "Hoping/praying that some of those million Mom's can open there hearts and accept people for who they are," writes a commenter. "Just emailed JCP, let them know that I will be making a trip to JCP due to Ellen--haven't shopped there in 30 years."