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Italian Americans Protest Verizon Ad Stereotype

Washington, DC - February 5, 2009 – Italian Americans all over the United States are complaining about a new Verizon television commercial that stereotypes families of Italian heritage, according to the Sons of Italy® Commission for Social Justice® (CSJ).

The CSJ is the antidefamation arm of the Order Sons of Italy in America®, the nation's biggest and oldest organization for men and women of Italian descent.

"The commercial features the "Coroleo family" whose name is a deliberate attempt to play off the fictitious Corleone family in The Godfather," says CSJ National President Anthony J. Baratta. "As such, it perpetuates the stereotype of Italian Americans as gangsters. Would Verizon have run a commercial that stereotypes African Americans or Jews?"

The CSJ has been "bombarded" with complaints about this commercial ever since it began running more than three weeks ago, Baratta says. He has been in negotiations with Verizon executives who have promised to permanentlyretire the commercial in mid-February.

"I personally will contact our vast network of members and supporters urging them not to support Verizon for airing this commercial for three weeks too long," Baratta says. "I find it highly ironic that Verizon earlier pulled a commercial about pit bulls because it offended dog owners," Baratta says. "Surely the sensibilities of an estimated 26 million Italian Americans are as important as those of dog owners."

Established in 1905, OSIA has 700,000 members and supporters and a network of more than 745 chapters coast to coast. It works at the community, national and international levels to promote the heritage and culture of an estimated 26 million Italian Americans, the nation's fifth largest ethnic group, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. To learn more, visit OSIA on the Web at www.osia.org