Since the mid-1990s, variations of the rumor that Tommy Hilfiger is racist, anti-Semitic, and homophobic persist despite the fact that these allegations have been debunked over and over again.
Spread initially through e-mails and other electronic media almost 20 years ago, the rumor’s many variations stem from an original allegation that Hilfiger appeared on The Oprah Winfrey Show and stated that his fashion was intended for upper-class whites and if he had known Blacks would be wearing his clothing, he would not have made them so nice. Other versions of the e-mail claimed Hilfiger did not want Asians, Hispanics, Jews, or other minorities wearing his clothing line. The e-mails also generally cliam that Oprah kicked Hilfiger off the show after he made the statement and called for a boycott of the Tommy Hilfiger company.
There is no truth to this rumor.
On her January 11, 1999 show, Oprah clarified that Hilfiger had never appeared on her show, stating, “All of the people who claim that they saw it, they heard it-- it never happened. I’ve never even met Tommy Hilfiger.” Hilfiger also clarified on his website that this urban legend was “a malicious and completely false rumor” and that his clothing is meant “for all different types of people regardless of their race, religious or cultural background.”
However, the rumor did not go away. On Oprah’s May 2, 2007 episode, she had Hilfiger as a guest for the first time. They discussed the rumor and both agreed that they had never met, and that Hilfiger “would never say that” and he had “no idea” where the allegation had originated. He even noted that he had asked FBI agents as well as private investigators try to figure out where the rumor came from, but they “couldn’t put their finger on it.”
Hilfiger has publicly addressed the racist allegations numerous times, including a March 2012 interview at the 92nd Street Y in Manhattan, which received a significant amount of coverage both in traditional media and on various blogs.
ADL’s follow up research into the matter is consistent with its findings publicized in a 2001 letter to Hilfiger which stated that “We have concluded after careful investigation that the malicious rumors circulating about you and your company are without merit and lack any basis in fact.”