Footnote to “A Stateless Philip Morris?”

At Altria/Philip Morris’s annual shareholder meeting yesterday, Altria CEO Louis Camilleri was confronted by protesters, including Maori activists who came from New Zealand to denounce the company for selling a “Maori Mix” brand in Israel. Camilleri repeatedly apologized for the marketing effort.

Maori Smokefree Coalition Director Shane Bradbrook told Camilleri,

“Let me tell you, this product called Maori Mix was an absolute affront to my people.

“Your company’s misappropriation and exploitation of our culture to sell your product of death and illness to Israelis was at a minimum culturally insensitive — and at worst another form of oppression and abuse that indigenous peoples have faced for decades.

“I stand before you to hold you in absolute contempt and derision. I don’t expect a weak apology or some glib rationale from you for associating our culture with Maori Mix. But I do have a message for you: do not misrepresent, do not associate our proud culture with your deceitful practices and product.”

After Camilleri issued his apology, Bradbook told the Altria CEO that he would accept the apology, but that he rejected the idea that the company made a “mistake.” Said Bradbook, “You spend millions of dollars on marketing and research. You never make mistakes.”