by Keith Laing, The Hill Newspaper
Washington, D.C.’s Metrorail says it cannot remove an advertisement in one of its subway stations that criticizes President Obama.
Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.) called for the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, which oversees the subway system that runs in the capital region, to remove the ad because it is “deeply disrespectful to the president of the United States.”
But the transit agency, which runs trains and buses in Washington as well as the Northern Virginia and Maryland suburbs, said it is prohibited from refusing advertisements for political reasons.
“WMATA advertising has been ruled by the courts as a public forum protected by the First Amendment of the Constitution, and we may not decline ads based on their political content,” the agency said in a written statement that was provided to The Hill.
“WMATA does not endorse the advertising on our system, and ads do not reflect the position of the authority,” the Metro statement continued.
The ad, which appears in a metro station in Virginia, is for a film that is critical of the federal health law and includes the phrase “Go to hell, Barack.”
Moran said he was “disappointed” by WMATA’s defense of the advertisement.
“If their current advertising guidelines do not prohibit profane advertisements on taxpayer-funded property, then WMATA should take the initiative and update them,” he said in a statement.
“The specific language in the WMATA-approved ad that should be removed is not political, it’s profane,” Moran continued. “It defames the president of the United States in a way that coarsens the public discourse.”
Its creator, filmmaker Darrow Clements, said in an interview that he stands by the advertisement.
“It was designed to express the magnitude of anger over our move toward socialized medicine,” Clements said in an interview with the Patch website in Clarendon, Va.
“I’m extremely upset the government is going to take over healthcare,” he continued. “I’m not mildly upset. I’m extremely upset.”
Clements said he purchased the advertisement on the Metro system because he “can’t afford to spend a ton of money like Michael Moore.”
“I’m an independent, struggling filmmaker,” he said.