Robrt L. Pela

Obama … or bust

Decrease Font Size Increase Font Size Text Size Print This Page

If the buzz on the Internet is any indication, most folks who saw the television commercial for the Chia Obama thought it was a spoof. And who can blame them? It’s hard to imagine that this wildly absurd, vaguely racist “as-seen-on-TV” item could be anything other than a joke.

Based on the infamous Chia Pet, those earthenware, animal-shaped vessels that sprout fuzzy green “fur” when filled with earth and grass seeds, the Chia Obama depicts a bald version of the 44th U.S. president. Once planted and watered, the clay head sprouts nappy “hair” that, some say, is a racist slam against black people. (All President Obama said, when presented on national television with a prototype of his grass-growing clay head, was “I have green hair!”)

The Chia Obama, which is emblazoned with the campaign slogan “Yes We Can!” as well as with the words liberty, opportunity, prosperity and hope, has been around for a couple of years. It was yanked from Walgreen’s store shelves in Chicago and Tampa in April of 2009 after complaints from human rights activists (and, presumably, people with taste). But 77-year-old Chia Pet magnate Joseph Pedott, a lifelong Republican, didn’t give up on his tacky gift idea and reintroduced it in late November of this year—just in time for the holidays—in a television ad campaign that aired on both cable and network stations. 

“Since when is an Afro racist?” demanded Pedott (who says he voted for Obama) at a recent press conference. “You can trim Chia Obama’s “hair” to any length you want!”

Pedott seems sincere, or at least totally unaware of the cheese factor of both his newest product and its stunning ad campaign, which can be found on YouTube and on americanchia.com. The commercial has proven more popular than the item it’s plugging, with hundreds of Internet commentaries in chat rooms and on YouTube.

“You can accuse me of naïveté,” Pedott says of both the campaign and his oddball homage to the president. “If people want to laugh at it, fine, as long as they recognize it’s positive.” 

See this story in print here:

You must be logged in to post a comment Login