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Kenneth Cole Says He's "Encouraging Awareness" With Controversial Syria Tweet

By Natalie Finn
|  Friday, Sep 6, 2013  |  Updated 10:35 AM EDT
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Kenneth Cole Says Syria Tweet "Encourages Awareness"

Getty Images for Kenneth Cole

Fashion designer Kenneth Cole

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Talk about your Kenneth Cole reaction.

The shoe and apparel designer has seemingly never met a pressing international crisis he couldn't optimize for shameless brand promotion--but he insists that he's only trying to get people talking.

About the world, not his product, that is.

"'Boots on the ground' or not, let's not forget about sandals, pumps and loafers. #Footwear," read the latest tweet from Cole that raised many eyebrows for what could easily be perceived as callousness about the increasingly dire situation in Syria.

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Politicians, policy analysts, military experts, et al. have been using the phrase "boots on the ground" in discussions about possible U.S. military intervention in the Middle Eastern nation, where President Bashar Assad's government is suspected of using chemical weapons on civilians.

So, just to be clear, that phrase had not been used in reference to footwear...until Thursday.

And considering the related headlines that popped up along with Cole's tweet included "Kenneth Cole's Offensive Syria Tweet" (Huffington Post), "Kenneth Cole Volunteers to Die in Syria" (Gawker), "Kenneth Cole Puts His Foot in His Mouth Again on Twitter" (Mashable) and "Kenneth Cole Is Joking About Tragic International Events to Sell Shoes Again" (Slate), the Internet was just waiting for Syria to be equated with sandals.

Buzzfeed compiled some of his greatest hits, including "Regardless of the right to bear arms, we in no way condone the right to bare feet" and "Millions are in uproar in #Cairo. Rumor is they heard our new spring collection is now available online."

But, just as he said at the time regarding the Egypt tweet about not meaning to "make light of a serious situation," so Cole says now about the Syria tweet.

"I've always used my platform to provoke dialogue about important issues, including HIV/AIDS, war and homelessness," he said in an Instagram video posted this afternoon in response to all the backlash.

"I'm well aware of the risks that come with this approach and if this encourages further awareness and discussion about critical issues, then all the better."

PHOTOS: Celebs making political statements through fashion

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