- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 22, 2003

The e-mail declares "Don't drink Pepsi" and urges recipients, like the old-fashioned chain letter, to pass it on.
"Let your voices be heard," it says.
It may sound like a marketing war between soft drink behemoths, but it's the rise of a new urban legend among God-fearing Americans that Pepsi wants to strip God from its cola cans.
The false story, which has circulated and morphed into different versions over the past year, says that Pepsi will issue a new patriotic can picturing the Empire State Building and the entire Pledge of Allegiance minus the words "under God."
Pepsi, which has tried mightily to quash the falsehood, was targeted because it was thought to still own Dr Pepper, the only soft drink to issue a patriotic can after the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The Dr Pepper can had a picture of the Statue of Liberty and the pledge excerpts "One nation … indivisible." At the time, some religious groups protested that the can left out the pledge words "under God."
Once the Dr Pepper debate reached the Internet and e-mail circuit, the rumor mill expanded the worry about anti-God soft drinks to the turf of PepsiCo Inc. Until 1995, PepsiCo Inc. owned Dr Pepper, which is now owned by Dr Pepper/Seven Up Inc.
For a year, the soft-drink giant has said it had no such plan for a patriotic can and loathed the spread of the rumor.
"Pepsi has no involvement in it," Pepsi spokesman Larry Jabbonsky said yesterday. "When we have the opportunity to talk to consumers and customers, they quickly understand."
The official explanation is posted on the Dr Pepper/Seven Up Inc. Web site. "Only three words were used from the Pledge of Allegiance," said the Dr Pepper memo, citing the "incomplete or inaccurate" information being circulated. "Those three words were in concert with the patriotic mood of the nation."
Still, the current e-mail chain letter warns about a forthcoming product a year after the patriotic cans were ended.
"Pepsi has a new 'patriotic' can coming out [but] forgot two little words on the pledge, 'Under God,'" the e-mail states. "Pepsi said they did not want to offend anyone."
In the age of e-mail, "These things are more common and increasingly difficult for the objects of the rumors to deal with," said Michael Barkun, a Syracuse University professor who has researched urban legends. "This used to happen by word of mouth."

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