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Aflac fires Gilbert Gottfried, voice of its duck, over insensitive Japan tweets

Columbus, Georgia-based insurer Aflac said today it has fired actor and comedian Gilbert Gottfried — the voice of the company’s famed duck — because of insensitive remarks he made via Twitter following last Friday’s catastrophic earthquake and tsunami in Japan.

Gottfried, 56, has been part of Aflac’s duck advertising campaign since 2000, primarily spouting the supplemental life and health insurer’s name in a high-pitched tone — ala “Aflaaaaac!” — during television commercials.

“Japan is such an important market to us. And with who we are as a company, that’s just unacceptable behavior and there was really no decision at all” not to let Gottfried know that his services are no longer needed, said Michael Zuna, Aflac’s chief marketing officer.

The Columbus company employs 5,000 people in Japan, which was rocked Friday with a magnitude-8.9 earthquake that created a massive tsunami. The death toll reportedly could top 10,000.

Aflac said its advertising firm, the Kaplan Thaler Group in New York City and creator of the duck campaign, informed Gottfried’s management company of its split with the comedian after seeing his Twitter rants mid-afternoon today.

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