Anti-Defamation League, Mayor of Culver City Respond to JCPenney’s Hitler Teakettle Billboard


It’s not quite summer, but the silly stories have started, and you may have heard about a certain JCPenney billboard located east of the 405 freeway in Culver City, California. It looks like this:

hitler tea kettle

And it reminded a lot of people of…

The kettle was designed by architect and New Jersey Hall of Famer Michael Graves, who has a long history of designing consumer products that do not resemble a saluting Hitler, including this teakettle from 1984. After the Hitler-kettle story went viral, JCPenney took to Twitter to reassure the public there was no intended connection between the product and the Nazi leader. Here’s one of JCPenney’s damage-controlling Tweets:

Hitler tea kettle jcpenney tweet

JCPenney/Twitter

JCPenney elected to stop selling the item on its website, and took down the billboard on Tuesday—but not before all the Hitler hoopla caused a sales spike in the now notorious kettles.

Still, Jeffrey Cooper, the Democratic mayor of Culver City, remains upset at JCPenney for not initially noticing the resemblance. “I am disappointed JCPenney actually put the billboard up in the first place and more outraged that they actually attempted to defend it,” he says in an email. “As a Jew, I am offended, [and] as an elected official, I am mad that the city I represent is linked to this.”

Others were more forgiving. “JCPenney did the right thing by responding to public concerns and removing the tea pot from their product line,” the Anti-Defamation League, one of the major groups that monitors anti-Semitism, says in a statement sent to Mother Jones. “We take JCPenney at their word that any resemblance to the Nazi dictator was completely unintended.”

Michael Graves did not respond to a request for comment.

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We didn't know what to expect when we told you we needed to raise $400,000 before our fiscal year closed on June 30, and we're thrilled to report that our incredible community of readers contributed some $415,000 to help us keep charging as hard as we can during this crazy year.

You just sent an incredible message: that quality journalism doesn't have to answer to advertisers, billionaires, or hedge funds; that newsrooms can eke out an existence thanks primarily to the generosity of its readers. That's so powerful. Especially during what's been called a "media extinction event" when those looking to make a profit from the news pull back, the Mother Jones community steps in.

The months and years ahead won't be easy. Far from it. But there's no one we'd rather face the big challenges with than you, our committed and passionate readers, and our team of fearless reporters who show up every day.

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