Opinion Brief

'Sausage or pepperoni?': Pizza Hut rethinks its presidential debate stunt

The restaurant chain backpedals after its publicity stunt gets slammed

The controversy: Pizza Hut is in damage-control mode after its proposed "Sausage or Pepperoni?" presidential debate contest was met by fierce criticism from just about every corner of the internet. Originally, the pizza purveyor offered a free pie every week for 30 years (or a check for $15,600) to anyone who posed the ultimate pizza-topping question to either Barack Obama or Mitt Romney during their town-hall debate on Tuesday. But now, as the Associated Press reports

Pizza Hut... says it will still honor the prize if someone poses the question live at the debate. But it's encouraging everyone to participate in the new online version, where contestants must enter their email addresses and zip codes to be eligible. The company will award two prizes if someone does ask the question. ...

The change comes after Pizza Hut's stunt became the butt of jokes.

The reaction: The best critique of Pizza Hut's sketchy contest was courtesy of Comedy Central's Stephen Colbert. "What could be more American," he asked, "than using our electoral process for product placement?" (Watch the video below.) In the end, we should be glad that "obesity and pimple enabler Pizza Hut" is backpedaling after offering the lucky winner a "lifetime of obesity, pimples, and what can be legally qualified as 'food,'" says Juli Weiner at Vanity Fair. But what's really weird, says Tiffany Hsu at the Los Angeles Times, is the unusually prominent place that pizza has had in this year's election. Former Godfather's Pizza boss Herman Cain was once the GOP frontrunner, Florida pizza parlor owner Scott Van Duzer notoriously bear-hugged Obama when he visited Duzer's restaurant last month, and Papa John's founder John Schnatter publicly came out against ObamaCare. Apparently, 2012 is the Year of Pizza.

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