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J.C. Penney CEO stands up for Ellen in spokesperson controversy

Tuesday, February 14, 2012  
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J.C. Penney Company CEO Ron Johnson stood by the chain’s diversity principles this month as he publicly supported the retailer’s new spokesperson, Ellen DeGeneres, after a group calling itself One Million Moms protested the company’s hiring of the openly gay celebrity.

The company, a NEW gold sponsor, announced in late January 2012 that DeGeneres, a one-time jcpenney store associate in Metaire, La., would help it usher in a new era, which emphasized every day pricing and treating customers "Fair and Square.” At the time, J.C. Penney President Michael Francis said, "Ellen DeGeneres is one of the most fun and vibrant people in entertainment today, with great warmth and a down-to-earth attitude. The millions who watch her on television and follow her through social media relate to her and trust what she has to say. Importantly, we share the same fundamental values as Ellen.”

The One Million Moms group argued "J.C. Penney thinks hiring an openly homosexual spokesperson will help their business when most of their customers are traditional families”and predicted sharp decline in sales.

In response, Johnson appeared on "CBS This Morning,” saying, "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 we share.”

Johnson called the decision to support Ellen and stick with the retailer’s decision to hire her "a no-brainer.” "When we decided to go back to our roots, which is to treat people fair and square, we debated whether we should have a spokesperson to help us. Of all the people in America today, we thought Ellen would be the perfect person. She is a very honest, straightforward , honest person with extraordinary values. It’s been unbelievably wonderful to work with someone who is so kind, so gracious, so funny, who captures what America is all about.”

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