Heinz launches push to stop rumours it's backing Kerry

PITTSBURGH - The HJ Heinz Company has launched a media relations initiative to quell rumours it will be involved in John Kerry's presidential campaign because his wife is a member of the Heinz founding family.

The effort came in response to calls the company received threatening to boycott its products if Heinz supports the Democratic presidential candidate.

The Heinz family owns less than 4% of the company's stock and Kerry's wife, Teresa Heinz, is not involved in the company's management.

Heinz received around 500 phone calls and emails in the past month asking questions about its possible campaign involvement, threatening a boycott, or supporting Kerry, said Debora Foster, VP of corporate communications.

The company is working with Edelman for corporate counsel on the matter and using Pittsburgh-based Veritas Public Relations to monitor media coverage, Foster said.

Foster traced the rumours to various television and talk-radio shows. One San Diego newspaper ran an editorial cartoon using a Heinz bottle as a symbol for the Kerry campaign.

The company issued a press release, distributed via Business Wire, saying it wasn't involved, but got little editorial notice.

So Foster has been mailing letters to editors and show hosts.

"The old letter with the stamp really got people's attention," she said. The AP did a story late last month, and talk-radio hosts have noted the Heinz effort, Foster said.

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