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Hallmark parent CEO to leave after same-sex ad controversy

Hallmark reverses decision to pull lesbian ad

The parent company of the Hallmark Channel said Thursday that CEO Bill Abbott is stepping down. The move comes about a month after the network became embroiled in controversy after pulling commercials featuring a same-sex couple, then reversing the decision after a consumer backlash.

The statement on Wednesday from Crown Media didn't give a reason for Abbott's departure. The Hallmark Channel has become known for its holiday specials, popular with both viewers and advertisers, but public attention on the same-sex ad campaign last month cast a shadow over its typically sunny programming. 

The issue began when the Hallmark Channel removed multiple ads from wedding-planning company Zola following pressure from the conservative group One Million Moms. According to a Hallmark statement on the decision to remove the spots, the group had complained to Abbott about the ads' content, which featured a female couple getting married and kissing at a wedding. 

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Hallmark has been criticized for pulling TV ads showing a same-sex couple. Zola.com via YouTube

But after the Hallmark Channel pulled the ads, a backlash ensued, with TV host Ellen DeGeneres tweeting at both The Hallmark Channel and Abbott, "What are you thinking? Please explain. We're all ears."

In the Wednesday statement, the company noted that its networks, including the Hallmark Channel and Hallmark Movies & Mysteries, have grown in recent years. Mike Perry, president and CEO of Hallmark Cards, said he plans to search for a replacement for Abbott. 

"I have tremendous confidence in the Crown Media management team and with this team in place, I will begin a search for Bill's replacement," Perry said.

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