Published April 09, 2009
The creator of the Chia Pet is ch-ch-cheesed off after Walgreens pulled a special-edition Chia Obama from its shelves -- apparently over concerns that it might offend customers.
A representative for Walgreens said the company dropped the product because they didn't want it to be misinterpreted. But Chia Pet creator Joseph Pedott told FOXNews.com he was "shocked" when he found out the mega-pharmacy was pulling his merchandise.
The Chia Obama, a bust of the 44th president with sprouting grass-like "hair" in the tradition of the classic Chia Pet, was stocked at the Tampa and Chicago Walgreens stores as a test run.
Pedott said company executives approved the product ahead of time, but it was on the shelves for less than a week when he got an e-mail Friday from Walgreens saying "it's not our image."
"I'm sick about it," Pedott, 76, said, disputing any suggestion that Chia Obama's Chia hair was mocking the Afro hairstyle.
"Obama had an Afro -- does that make him racist?" Pedott said. "So how the hell do you get racist out of it? And number one, you can give him a haircut."
Pedott said he is a Republican, but he voted for Obama and was just trying to do right by the new president.
"It's Americana," Pedott said. "I thought I would take the good name of Chia and support the good things that he's trying to do. ... That was a labor of love."
Pedott said he was so confident the Chia Obama was not offensive he even asked the Rev. Jesse Jackson to screen it when he ran into him recently at a Chicago eatery.
"He said, quote, 'I think this is a find product,' end quote -- I have three witnesses," Pedott said.
Walgreens spokesman Robert Elfinger would not comment on whether the company was concerned about the product being seen as racially insensitive.
"We decided to pull the product because we didn't want it to be subject to any misinterpretation," he said. "People could interpret it through a political viewpoint or other viewpoints, and we wanted to avoid that situation."
It's not the first famous figure Pedott has Chia-ified. He's created prototypes for a Hillary Clinton model, though he hasn't rolled it out on the shelves yet. Plus he did one for Mr. T, at the request of Mr. T's people.
Pedott had to pull advertising for the $19.99 Obama product after hearing from Walgreens, but said he'll try to convince other retailers to give it a go. He's already been putting a lot of work into the marketing.
The online product details give a pretty compelling pitch.
"Can you grow one? YES YOU CAN," they say.
FOXNews.com's Judson Berger contributed to this report.