Friday, January 07, 2005 - Butt out: Fox nixes Super Bowl backside ad

By Ann Oldenburg, USA TODAY
A year after Janet Jackson's breast brought a crackdown on indecency, Fox has rejected an ad for the Super Bowl offering a rare view of another celeb: Mickey Rooney's backside.
Fox has rejected a Super Bowl ad featuring a Mickey Rooney wardrobe malfunction.

In the spot for Airborne, a natural cold remedy, the 84-year-old star of such 1940s staples as National Velvet and the Andy Hardy films is in a sauna when someone behind him coughs. He overreacts, jumps up, screams and heads for the door. In his rush, his towel drops, baring his buns for about two seconds.

"Our standards department reviewed the ad and it was deemed inappropriate for broadcast," says Lou d'Ermilio, spokesman for Fox Sports.

It is, after all, nudity.

But Rider McDowell, co-owner of Airborne, says it's not exactly titillating stuff. "There's nothing sexual about the ad," McDowell says. "It's tantamount to showing a baby's bottom."

Rooney, who was planning a Super Bowl party, says in a statement he's angry. He wanted to be the butt of this joke: "What we're selling here is something I really believe in, which is an awareness of the germs we're all exposed to. There's nothing sensual about the brief exposure of my backside, and it's not gratuitous. ... It's a fun spot, and the public deserves to see it."

McDowell says he has been in talks with Fox since August about the 15-second spot, for which he planned to pay $1.2 million, 10% of the Carmel, Calif.-based company's annual ad budget. "We're disappointed and angry," says McDowell, 42. And while he admits that he hoped to create "buzz," McDowell thinks Fox is being "overzealous in their policing of the airwaves."

David Rice, McDowell's lawyer, sent a letter Monday to the Federal Communications Commission, arguing the ad is "amusing and entirely appropriate for broadcast" and urging the commission to issue an order directing Fox to broadcast it.

An FCC spokeswoman said Thursday that the commission would never make such an order. The agency responds to complaints after material airs.

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