00:37 GMT +321 January 2020
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    The controversial ad was part of a new #WhereIsWashington promotional campaign featuring a new Rome-Washington, DC route.

    Alitalia has tweeted an apology "for the offence caused" by a recent promotional ad which included a non-black actor playing former US President Barack Obama wearing heavy makeup to make him look black.

    Saying that the offensive ad has been removed, the company stressed that "it was never our intention to hurt anyone," and promised to "learn from what has happened."

    The apology comes following a controversy which began earlier this week, when Alitalia released a social media marketing spot featuring actors playing US presidents George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Barack Obama and Donald Trump along with the hashtag #WhereIsWashington, with the ad campaign meant to emphasise the convenience of its new route.

    With the other actors made up to look like their real-life counterparts, the dark skinned but non-black actor of Tunisian decent playing Obama was made to look black, given an enlarged nose and other features, with his foundation makeup reportedly making him look darker.

    The so-called 'blackface' getup sparked outrage online, first in Italy and then spreading to English-language social media.

    The company initially challenged its critics, accusing one Facebook user of "exaggerating" the campaign's offensive nature. However, as criticism mounted, the company backed down and got rid of the controversial ad.

    The Obama 'blackface' ad controversy sparked a massive debate online, with many users attacking the airline's marketing team for being so out of touch with "the state of the world today."

    Some criticised the airline even after it pulled the ads, saying they wouldn't be satisfied until the company canceled the route, or making blanket statements about all Italians being "proud to show how racists they are."

    Not everyone was enraged, however, with some users complaining about people "obsessed with looking for a reason to be offended," or insisting that the company had nothing to apologise for.


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