LOS ANGELES (AP) — VH1 says it's sticking with "Sorority Sisters" despite criticism of the reality show's depiction of black sorority members and the growing defection of commercial sponsors.
There are no plans to change the 10-episode series that "seems to be connecting with its audience," the channel said in a statement late Wednesday. About 1.3 million people watched Monday's debut episode.
The show drew protests even before airing, both when it was announced last summer and when a promotional video was released online. The video showcased typical reality show fireworks, with insults and tears among its cast of sorority members who graduated from Atlanta-area colleges.
The backlash included an online petition that drew more than 40,000 supporters demanding the project be abandoned, said Lawrence Ross, one of the organizers. When VH1 aired the show, he said, "it confirmed all of our worst visions."
"These are organizations with over a million college educated members, all which serve the African-American community for a lifetime. ... 'Sorority Sisters' uses that legacy and reduces it to a perverse caricature," said Ross, author of "The Divine Nine: The History of African-American Fraternities and Sororities."
Several sponsors have responded to the protest — which uses the hashtag "BoycottSororitySisters" — by pulling their ads from the show.
"The content of this program does not meet our guidelines" or align with the company's brand, T-Mobile said in a statement Thursday.
Hallmark is not advertising on "Sorority Sisters" because of consumer reaction, spokeswoman Linda Odell said.
VH1 declined to comment on specific sponsors, citing confidentiality agreements, but said, "We do enjoy successful, long-term partnerships with our advertisers and are happy to honor any requests to move spots to other parts of our schedule."
According to Ross, the protest campaign is not over.
"VH1 will remove the show because we're going to make advertising on this show toxic," he said.