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Dunkin' Donuts in 'racist' ad row

Dunkin' Donuts has been urged to withdraw a "bizarre and racist" advertisement for chocolate doughnuts that shows a smiling woman in black face makeup.

The Dunkin' Donuts franchise in Thailand launched a campaign earlier this month for its new Charcoal Donut, featuring an image reminiscent of 19th and early 20th century American stereotypes for black people that are now considered offensive symbols of a racist era.

Human Rights Watch said it was shocked to see an American brand name running an advertising campaign that would draw "howls of outrage" if released in the United States.

"It's both bizarre and racist that Dunkin' Donuts thinks that it must colour a woman's skin black and accentuate her lips with bright pink lipstick to sell a chocolate doughnut," said Phil Robertson, the deputy Asia director for Human Rights Watch. "Dunkin' Donuts should immediately withdraw this ad, publicly apologise to those it's offended and ensure this never happens again."

Dunkin' Donuts' CEO in Thailand, Nadim Salhani, dismissed the criticism as "paranoid American thinking" and called it "absolutely ridiculous."

"We're not allowed to use black to promote our doughnuts? I don't get it. What's the big fuss? What if the product was white and I painted someone white, would that be racist?"

He said that the Thai franchise of Dunkin' Donuts operates independently of the American operation and that doughnut sales have increased about 50% since the campaign was launched around two weeks ago, which he attributed to curiosity about the new advertisements.

"Not everybody in the world is paranoid about racism," said Salhani, a Lebanese expatriate in Thailand who said his teenage daughter was the model featured in the campaign. "I'm sorry, but this is a marketing campaign, and it's working very well for us."

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