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Maya Rudolph is the new face of M&M's ad campaign

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Big news at the M&M's Store. The maker of M&M's says the colorful cartoon versions of the candies that appear in its ads are taking a break. NPR's David Folkenflik reports that Fox News' biggest star made them part of the primetime culture wars.

DAVID FOLKENFLIK, BYLINE: You've probably seen a fair bit of those saucy characters we're talking about here.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #1: Hey, the new M&M's dulce de leche caramels.

J K SIMMONS: (As Yellow) Nope.

BILLY WEST: (As Red) Not us.

SIMMONS: (As Yellow) No way.

FOLKENFLIK: Plots, jokes, celebrity cameos - things got a touch racy, even a bit meta.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PATRICK WARBURTON: What are you doing?

FOLKENFLIK: The character actor Patrick Warburton there coming across three animated M&M's.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

WEST: (As Red) What?

WARBURTON: You're eating M&M's.

WEST: (As Red) Yeah? So are you.

WARBURTON: I'm not an M&M. You don't eat your own kind. It's unnatural.

FOLKENFLIK: The M&M campaign stretches back more than two decades. No one had found recent iterations more unnatural than Fox News' Tucker Carlson.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT")

TUCKER CARLSON: The Brown M&M has, quote, "transitioned from high stilettos to lower block heels." Also less sexy - that's progress.

FOLKENFLIK: Here was Carlson on his primetime show a year ago. Parent company Mars Wrigley also swapped out the go-go boots on the feminine-appearing green M&M for a pair of sneaks. The company had announced it wanted to create a world in which everyone feels they belong.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT")

CARLSON: M&M's will not be satisfied until every last cartoon character is deeply unappealing and totally androgynous, until the moment you wouldn't want to have a drink with any one of them. That's the goal. When you're totally turned off, we've achieved equity. They've won.

FOLKENFLIK: So we have a case of candy cancel culture on our hands here. Tucker Carlson gets to notch the win, I guess. Funny thing - usually, Carlson is the guy telling viewers he's the champion of those who say they are canceled by critics like this conservative comic.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT")

CARLSON: So we opened this show by telling you about the comedian Josh Denny, who has been silenced...

FOLKENFLIK: And so many others.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT")

CARLSON: So now you're not even allowed to buy a used copy of Dr. Seuss' books. It's just too dangerous.

FOLKENFLIK: Even given we're talking about cartoon chocolates here - kind of ironic. Last fall, Mars introduced a new spokes-candy.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON #2: Hey, Purple, 10 minutes till your big debut.

AMBER RUFFIN: (As Purple, singing) I'm the new M&M's candy. Do I have what it takes?

FOLKENFLIK: And Carlson made sure his audience knew of the disturbing developments.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "TUCKER CARLSON TONIGHT")

CARLSON: Woke M&M's have returned. The Green M&M got her boots back but apparently is now a lesbian maybe? And there's also a plus-sized, obese Purple M&M. So we're going to cover that, of course, because that's what we do.

FOLKENFLIK: Carlson told the conservative British magazine The Spectator he was just making fun of the campaign but said women can wear sexy boots and still be in leadership positions - noted. Speaking of women in leadership positions...

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE")

MAYA RUDOLPH: (As Kamala Harris) Good evening, America. I'm Vice President Kamala Harris.

FOLKENFLIK: That's actually not Vice President Kamala Harris. It's comedian and actor Maya Rudolph, M&M's new spokeswoman. For its newest face, the company turned to a biracial woman performer who helped raise money for Harris and other Democrats that Carlson routinely blasts. She'll kick off M&M's new commercials - where else? - during the Super Bowl, which Mars says were already in the works. Looking forward to Carlson's postgame analysis. Last night, Carlson took a victory lap of sorts. He couldn't help but take advantage of one last chance to own the libs.

David Folkenflik, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

David Folkenflik was described by Geraldo Rivera of Fox News as "a really weak-kneed, backstabbing, sweaty-palmed reporter." Others have been kinder. The Columbia Journalism Review, for example, once gave him a "laurel" for reporting that immediately led the U.S. military to institute safety measures for journalists in Baghdad.

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