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John Oliver roasts CNN for airing Applebee’s ad during Ukraine invasion

‘This is so disturbing’

Chelsea Ritschel
New York
Monday 28 February 2022 23:26 GMT
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CNN cuts away from Ukraine air-raid sirens for Applebee's ad in jarring transition

Late-night comedy host John Oliver took Applebee’s and CNN to task for the network airing a jarring advertisement for the casual restaurant chain right after airing footage of air raid sirens in Ukraine.

“It’s just so aggressively American,” Oliver said of the ad before pointing to a statement from Applebee’s expressing regret over the ad.

“That is some deft international diplomacy from the home of both the Grilled Oriental Chicken Salad and the Tipsy Leprechaun,” he said. “And you know when Applebee’s is apologising for interrupting the coverage of Russia invading Ukraine this week got seriously out of hand.”

CNN and Applebee’s are facing backlash for “tone-deaf” timing of the ad.

In a video posted to Twitter of the televised moment on Thursday, the network’s live coverage could be seen showing air raid sirens blaring in Ukraine’s capital Kyiv before the screen transitioned into a split-screen to air an advertisement for Applebee’s.

The Applebee’s ad, which was set to the song Chicken Fried by Zac Brown Band, included close-up shots of wings, a glass of beer, and a man dancing in a pair of jeans, played as a banner on the side of the screen declared “Russia invades Ukraine” and the bottom of the screen read: “Live CNN coverage continues.”

On Twitter, where one video of the incident has been viewed more than 5.4m times and where Applebee’s began trending, viewers have called out both the network and the restaurant chain for the unfortunate timing.

“We are so incredibly embarrassing as a country. Thank you, Applebee’s,” one person tweeted.

Another said: “#Ukraine invasion coverage presented by Applebee’s. How tone-deaf.”

“How is this real?” someone else asked.

Others said the moment was “actually infuriating” while another person asked why we have to “monetise every waking f***ing moment of our lives”.

“Nothing better reflects the horrors of war quite like an Applebee’s ad,” one user sarcastically wrote.

In a statement to The Independent, a spokesperson for Applebee’s said: “We are deeply concerned about the situation in Ukraine. When we were made aware that our ad was placed in this manner, we immediately reached out to CNN to pause our advertising on their network. It never should have aired, and we are disappointed in the actions of the network.” The company said it also reached out to MSNBC.

As noted on social media, a similar incident of poorly timed advertising also occurred on MSNBC during the outlet’s coverage of the invasion, during which the same Applebee’s advertisement played.

“It feels so dystopian to watch MSNBC right now and see a giant ‘Ukraine invasion’ graphic while an Applebee’s commercial of a cowboy dancing to Chicken Fried plays next to it,” one tweet reads.

The Independent has contacted CNN and MSNBC for comment.

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