Papa John’s PR firm suppressing critical bloggers?

After trying to scare people into voting for Mitt Romney lest the price of his pizzas command an extra “11-14 cents” due to President Obama’s health care reform law,  Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter has apparently hired a public relations firm to tell a blog to stop reminding people of that dark, dumb time.

According to blogger Will Stabley, the Los Angeles-based PR outfit Sitrick & Company reached out to him because of a post Stabley wrote on his blog, The Stabley Times, that referenced an August, 2012, broadcast of CNN’s hilarious Situation Room, in which Wolf Blizter’s newsfriend destroys Schnatter’s infamous claim with an application of mathematics.

Apparently, that’s enough to solicit an email from the PR firm asking Stabley to remove his post. Stabley provided Fatlip with that email — sent on Jan. 26 at 9:13 a.m. by Sitrick’s foudner and CEO, Mike Sitrick — presented below in full:

Our firm represents Papa John’s and John Schnatter, its founder.  I am writing about your January 25, 2013 post, “CNN confirms Papa John’s CEO John Schnatter was lying about ObamaCare price increases.”  You wrote, “Ahead of the 2012 Presidential election, Papa John’s founder “Papa John” Schnatter claimed that he would be raising the price of his pizzas by eleven cents to cover the increased costs on his business due to the “ObamaCare” Patient Protection And Affordable Health Care Act instituted by President Barack Obama.”

Mr. Schnatter said no such thing.  What he said, in response to an investor call, was the company estimated that Obamacare would result in an increased cost to the company of approximately 11 cents to 14 cents per pizza, “but our business model and unit economics are about as ideal as you can get for a food company to absorb Obamacare, ergo, we have a high ticket average with extremely high frequency of order counts, millions of pizzas per year.”  (The part in quotes is directly from a transcript of that call.)

The remarks that are the subject of your post and an answer to a question he was asked while speaking to a college class have unfortunately been mischaracterized by some in the media. (See Mr. Schnatter’s Huffington Post op-ed which is attached.)  Where we have seen these mischaracterization we have asked for a correction or that the story be taken down.  Fortunately, in virtually all of these cases, we have been dealing with responsible journalists who have done just that.  (We somehow missed the CNN story about which you wrote.)

We would request, Mr. Stabley, given that the information is demonstrably false about what Mr. Schnatter that you do the same, preferably removing the post.

Wrote Stabley in response:

 In reference to why Papa John’s would come after a publication like ours for simply relaying something that CNN had reported about the pizza chain, the PR firm claims that it “somehow missed the CNN story about which you wrote.” This despite the fact that CNN first aired the clip in August of last year, and has since become the most often cited proof that Schnatter’s claims of increased costs were dishonest…

The pizza chain appears to be attempting to split hairs as to whether Schnatter claimed he would actually raise prices as a result of ObamaCare, or whether he would simply see his own costs rise and absorb the cost. But the research done by CNN makes clear that ObamaCare will not cause Papa John’s to see a cost increase of any kind, which means that in either case Schnatter’s claim is a false one…

Fatlip reached out to Darryl Carr, director of corporate communications for Papa John’s International Inc., to shed light on the flap, but has received no immediate response. Further, Sitrick has never reached out to us in our critiques of Schnatter’s comments.

A February 2009 Radar Online article alleges that Sitrick charges his clients $695 an hour, and once represented pop singer Chris Brown immediately in the aftermath of Brown’s much-publicized 2008 physical altercation with pop singer Rihanna.

Michael Sitrick, whom reportedly charges $695 an hour, is well known for handling high profiles celebs when they find themselves on the wrong side of the headlines. From Halle Berry‘s alleged hit-and-run mishap, Rush Limbaugh‘s oxy-contin scandal to Kim Basinger‘s bankruptcy, Sitrick’s client roster reads like a dossier of by-gone scandals.

Sitrick wrote in his book, “Spin: How to Turn The Power of the Press to Your Advantage,” ‘Correcting a problem is necessary, but alas, rarely sufficient; that is where the spin comes in.” Sitrick may attempt to spin the tragic events of that night, but the best p.r. professional probably won’t be able to save Chris Brown from the person that seems to be hurting him most, Chris Brown.

And not to bury the lead or anything, but it should also be mentioned that Schnatter made the cover of LEO’s most recent “Loserville” issue on Dec. 12, 2012.



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