Aflac announced it severed ties with Gilbert Gottfried, the voice of the Aflac duck, in response to the comedian's jokes on Twitter about the tsunami in Japan.
"Gilbert's recent comments about the crisis in Japan were lacking in humor and certainly do not represent the thoughts and feelings of anyone at Aflac," Aflac Senior Vice President and Chief Marketing Officer Michael Zuna said in a statement March 14. "Aflac Japan--and, by extension, Japan itself--is part of the Aflac family, and there is no place for anything but compassion and concern during these difficult times."
A day after he was fired, Gottfried issued a statement apologizing.
"I sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by my attempt at humor regarding the tragedy in Japan. I meant no disrespect, and my thoughts are with the victims and their families."
The insurance company, which sells supplemental health insurance, accident and disability policies, will begin a nationwide casting call to find a new voice for the duck, which appears to quack the company name in television commercials. "It should be noted that Gilbert Gottfried is not the voice of the Aflac Duck in Japan," the company said in a press release.
Aflac announced that the company was donating 100 million yen to the International Red Cross for disaster assistance, and that their offices in Japan are open and ready to help policyholders. Aflac Japan's main offices, including the corporate offices in Tokyo and operational centers in Tokyo and Osaka, are undamaged and fully functional, the company said.
Only two of Aflac Japan's 82 sales offices were damaged. Both of them are in a building in Sendai and, although damage was minimal, they closed temporarily due to power outages.
Aflac Japan insures approximately one out of every four Japanese households and is No. 1 among insurance companies in the country in terms of individual insurance policies in-force.