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U.S. Firm Eyes Lawsuit Over Russian TV's 'Hateful' Antigay Report

The world through Russian state television's eyes
The world through Russian state television's eyes

A U.S. company says it is exploring legal action after its advertisement was manipulated on Russian state television to suggest Western countries are corrupting children with sex education and tolerant views toward homosexuals.

Fathead, a Detroit-based company specializing in sports and entertainment decals, said in a statement to RFE/RL: "We will not tolerate the reconstruction of one of our family friendly TV spots into a hateful, bigoted, and outrageous attack on the gay community as well as children."

A November 28 report by Russian state broadcaster Rossia-1 used footage from a 2012 Fathead commercial in which a father surprises his young son with a monster-truck decal on his bedroom wall.

Footage from the ad aired in the Russian report showed drawings of naked men photoshopped over the truck decal in what Rossia-1 portrayed as a dangerous example of Western sexual values.

"Is this how a child's playroom should look?" the report's narrator asks over footage of the boy's stunned, joyous reaction.

Fathead says it found the original video on YouTube and that the family of the boy granted permission to the company to use it for an advertisement.

The company is "exploring any and all legal actions available to remove the fraudulent and unauthorized alteration of one of our national TV commercials," it said in the statement.

"We will vigorously pursue those who created this abhorrent depiction of our content, as well as those [who] host it online, to facilitate their prosecution to the full extent of the law,” Fathead added.

The altered footage was aired by Rossia-1 on its show "Special Correspondent," which boasts that it delivers the "most incisive investigations" by the network's "best correspondents."

The program, which features roundtable-style debates as well, frequently takes aim at Kremlin critics who in turn have accused the show’s correspondents of producing hatchet pieces based on misrepresentations and outright fabrications.

TAMPERED WITH: The manipulated footage appears at the 43:56 mark in this full Rossia-1 program.

Russian President Vladimir Putin last year signed a law banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relationships" in what is widely seen as part of his broader shift toward conservative values to shore up his political base.

Russian officials have claimed the law is aimed at protecting children and encouraging Russia's birthrate, while Western governments and rights activists call it discriminatory against the lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender community.

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    Carl Schreck

    Carl Schreck is an award-winning investigative journalist who serves as RFE/RL's enterprise editor. He has covered Russia and the former Soviet Union for more than 20 years, including a decade in Moscow. He has led investigations into corruption, cronyism, and disinformation campaigns in Russia and Central Asia, as well as on poisoning attacks against Kremlin opponents and assassinations of Iranian exiles in the West. Schreck joined RFE/RL in 2014.

RFE/RL has been declared an "undesirable organization" by the Russian government.

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