Hallmark omits 'gay' from sweater ornament, sparks controversy

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KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) — Greeting card giant Hallmark said Thursday that it shouldn't have changed the lyrics to "Deck the Halls" on a new holiday ornament that stirred a backlash from customers online.

The Kansas City, Mo.-based company has been defending itself after it began selling a miniaturized version of a tacky holiday sweater that changes the lyrics to the holiday carol. The ornament removes the word "gay" and emblazons the sweater with the phrase: "Don we now our FUN apparel!"

Critics took to Twitter and Hallmark's Facebook page, accusing the company of making a political statement by using the word "fun" to replace "gay." Some Facebook commenters said they would never again buy Hallmark merchandise and that the change amounted to the company rewriting Christmas classics in the name of political correctness. Others suggested removing the word "gay" demonstrated a homophobic bias.

The company initially responded by saying the multiple meanings attached to the word "gay" meant the sweater's lyrics would be "open to misinterpretation."

"The trend of wearing festively decorated Christmas sweaters to parties is all about fun, and this ornament is intended to play into that, so the planning team decided to say what we meant: 'fun.' That's the spirit we intended and the spirit in which we hope ornament buyers will take it."

The company updated its statement Thursday, saying it was surprised by the public's response and that it now realized it shouldn't have changed the lyrics.

"We've been surprised at the wide range of reactions expressed about the change of lyrics on this ornament, and we're sorry to have caused so much concern," the statement read. "We never intend to offend or make political statements with our products and in hindsight, we realize we shouldn't have changed the lyrics on the ornament."

But Hallmark spokeswoman Linda Odell said the company has no plans to stop selling the ornament.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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