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Verizon's dim-dad ad for DSL ignites a protest

NEW YORK -- A TV ad showing a computer-illiterate father being chided for trying to help his Internet-savvy daughter with her homework has roused the anger of fatherhood activists, who are calling on Verizon Communications Inc. to take it off the air.

"Leave her alone," says the mother in Verizon's DSL ad, ordering her befuddled husband to go wash the dog as the daughter, doing research online, conveys a look of exasperation with her dad.

"It's really outrageous," said Joe Kelly, executive director of the advocacy group Dads and Daughters. "It's reflective of some deeply entrenched cultural attitudes -- that fathers are second-class parents. . . . To operate from the assumption that dad is a dolt is harmful to fathers, harmful to children, and harmful to mothers."

John Bonomo, a Verizon spokesman, said the ad has been running for several months, but only a few days ago did it come to the attention of Glenn Sacks, a commentator who hosts a weekly radio show aired in Los Angeles and Seattle that is sympathetic to the fathers' rights movement. Sacks began urging listeners to protest to Verizon.

"By denigrating that guy, not simply with his wife but to show him to be useless with his little daughter, I know that made a lot of people see red," said Sacks, who has a school-age daughter.

Bonomo said Verizon received numerous calls and e-mails but had not decided what sort of response might be made. "All we can say at this point is we're looking at it," he said.

Kelly said corporate executives should try to imagine their own families being portrayed in their company's commercials.

"If you get the powers-that-be to put their own child's face in the picture, you've accomplished something." he said. "You can't stop being a father when you go out the front door."

Both Sacks and Kelly say fathers have become easy targets for mockery from ad agencies that are now wary of offending women and racial minorities.

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