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Eligibility billboards dubbed 'misleading'
Posted By Chelsea Schilling On 06/04/2009 @ 10:40 pm In Front Page | Comments Disabled
WND’s national billboard campaign that asks one simple question: “Where’s the birth certificate?” is “misleading, offensive, or otherwise incompatible with individual community standards,” according to the lead trade association representing the outdoor advertising industry.
As WND reported, CBS Outdoor, a division of CBS Corp. that sells more outdoor advertising than any other billboard company in North America, refuses to accept purchases of space on any of its 550,000 displays nationwide.
CBS Outdoor is a member of the Outdoor Advertising Association of America, or OAAA.
In reference to calls to CBS Outdoor, OAAA spokesman Jeff Kalinowski directed WND to the following online statement titled, “OAAA Response to Obama Birth Certificate Billboards“:
The outdoor advertising industry has a longstanding and routine practice of determining what copy it will accept or reject. An outdoor advertising company has the right to reject any copy for any reason. For example, the OAAA Code of Principles clearly states companies have the right to reject content they deem misleading, offensive, or otherwise incompatible with individual community standards.
In the situation of the Obama birth certificate billboards, there is no First Amendment question. The First Amendment applies to governmental restrictions on speech, not on the decisions of outdoor advertising companies.
We strongly stand behind the right of our companies to reject this or any other copy.
Asked why the company considers birth certificate billboards “misleading, offensive, or otherwise incompatible with individual community standards,” Kalinowski replied, “I’m not going to go any further than the statement. That’s where the industry stands. As the statement says, we strongly support all of our companies’ rights to reject copy for any reason.”
Upon further inquiry, he replied, “I am not going to give you anything more than what’s in our statement.”
The billboard campaign was begun last month by Joseph Farah, editor and chief executive officer of WND, due to his frustration with media colleagues not giving attention to what he sees as critical questions about Barack Obama’s constitutional eligibility to serve as president.
“Here we have one of the largest media companies in the U.S. now not only refusing to allow news coverage of a vitally important national question being asked by millions of Americans, but one that won’t even permit the purchase of space to raise the question,” said Farah. “What is the value of a First Amendment in a country when this kind of self-censorship is at work – self-censorship specifically geared to stifle inquiry and debate about the most powerful person in the country.”
Farah maintains Obama has not proved he is constitutionally eligible to serve as president as a “natural born citizen, and suggests only the release of his long-form birth certificate showing the hospital of his birth, attending physician and other details can conclusively meet that test. Obama’s presidential campaign released to select news organizations only what is known as a “certification of live birth,” a document obtainable in Hawaii in 1961 by Americans actually born outside the country.
CBS also owns one of the three major broadcast TV networks and radio networks, an online advertising division, television stations, Showtime and Simon & Schuster, one of the largest book publishers in the world. The billboard division manages $2 billion in annual revenues, according to company statements. It also boasts controlling more billboard space than any other company in North America, with 1,600 employees in more than 50 offices nationwide. It controls billboard space in every major American city.
“We are the premier out-of-home provider to outdoor advertising agencies in the United States,” the company’s website says. “In addition to our overall advertising agency client base, we also sell and service more out-of-home media to local clients than any other outdoor company. During the company’s seven decades, its sole focus has been providing the very best out-of-home media opportunities to marketers across the country.”
Farah says CBS obviously has a focus beyond making money by selling signs.
“CBS is a company that is not squeamish about feeding America’s children a steady diet of offensive movies, obscene rap music and even TV commercials that push the cultural and moral envelope,” said Farah. “But CBS is afraid to put up a sign containing four innocent words of constitutionally protected, non-inflammatory speech. You explain that to me. This is a giant media conglomerate unworthy of operating under the protection of the First Amendment.”
Nevertheless, Farah remains undaunted in his quest to post the eligibility issue on billboards across the country and insists CBS billboards are not needed to fulfill the mission. His media buyer, who had no opinion on the campaign when she became involved, says she has had her eyes opened.
“They (CBS) already knew about this campaign when approached,” she said. “Being involved in this campaign has not only opened my eyes but has disillusioned my faith in Americans standing up for what’s right and equal in the eyes of our forefathers who wrote the Constitution for this very reason. It has made me feel sad.”
The local account executive at CBS was shocked by the response from the top levels of the corporation.
“We just received an e-mail from CBS Corporate,” he wrote. “They are aware of this campaign and we are not allowed to install it. This came straight from corporate. Sorry!”
Launched just two weeks ago, the campaign has raised about $65,000 and begun erecting billboards that ask the question, “Where’s the birth certificate?” The campaign followed one launched months earlier to collect the names on an electronic petition demanding accountability and transparency on the issue. So far, that petition has gathered nearly 400,000 names.
The campaign got a boost last week when WND White House correspondent Les Kinsolving asked Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, why the president wouldn’t release his birth certificate. Gibbs’ response was covered live on C-SPAN and by Fox News Channel and others – excluding CBS.
It was the first time any member of the press corps has publicly asked a member of the administration a question directly related to Obama’s constitutional eligibility for office as a “natural born citizen.”
Congressional hearings were held to determine whether Sen. John McCain was constitutionally eligible to be president as a “natural born citizen,” but no controlling legal authority ever sought to verify Obama’s claim to a Hawaiian birth.
Both the petition and the billboard campaign are part of what Farah calls an independent “truth and transparency campaign.”
The first sign to be posted under the week-old campaign, a digital, electronic one, is up and online on Highway 165 in Ball, La. In addition, based on the heavy volume of financial donations in the first days of the campaign, WND was able to commit to leasing two more standard billboards – one in Los Angeles and the other in Pennsylvania. Those signs are expected to be raised as early as next week. Another electronic has been leased along heavily trafficked Interstate 5 in Orange County, Calif.
Birth certificate question being raised in Ball, La.
Many have asked why Obama’s name is not included in the billboard. Farah said the matter was carefully considered.
“There are several reasons we chose the message: ‘Where’s the birth certificate?’” he explained. “There is only one birth certificate controversy in this country today – despite the near-total absence of this issue from coverage in the non-WND media. This is a grass-roots issue that resonates around the country, as our own online petition with nearly 400,000 signers suggests. In addition, I like the simplicity of the message. I like the fact that the message will cause some people to ask themselves or others about the meaning of the message. It will stir curiosity. It will create a buzz. I’m assuming when these billboards are springing up all over the country, it might even make some in the news media curious. And there’s one more factor that persuaded me this was the way to go.
“Come 2012, campaign laws will pose restrictions on political advertising mentioning the names of presidential candidates. This one clearly doesn’t. I would like to see the federal government make the case that this is somehow a political ad,” he said.
Further, Farah said, CBS’ reaction to the campaign makes the point about how squeamish major media outlets are about questioning powerful political leaders – especially those with whom they agree.
“Imagine the problems we’d have finding billboard space if Obama’s image or name was part of the message,” he said. “CBS is afraid of four innocent words – even though it is a purveyor of highly offensive four-letter words in its entertainment portfolio.”
Farah said the campaign was born of frustration with timid elected officials in Washington, corrupt judges around the country and a news media that show a stunning lack of curiosity about the most basic facts of Obama’s background – especially how it relates to constitutional eligibility for the highest office in the land.
“As Obama transforms this country from self-governing constitutional republic to one governed by a central ruling elite, the simple fact remains that no controlling legal authority has established that he is indeed a ‘natural born citizen’ as the Constitution requires,” Farah said. “Obama’s promises of transparency have become a bad joke as he continues to hide simple, innocuous documents like his birth certificate and his student records.”
The idea behind the billboard campaign is to make sure Obama cannot avoid this question any longer. He must be asked to produce it at every turn, Farah says. Billboard space is currently being hunted in Houston, Dallas, Sacramento, San Francisco, Seattle and other metro areas.
“Is it unusual for a news agency to launch such a campaign?” asks Farah. “Yes it is. But we live in very unusual times. The founding fathers built special protections into the First Amendment for the free press. The reason they did that is because they understood a vibrant ‘Fourth Estate’ was necessary as an independent watchdog on government. It is in that tradition that WND assumes this role – since nobody else in the press will do it.
“I wish such a campaign were not absolutely necessary,” said Farah. “I wish there were checks and balances in our political and electoral systems to ensure that constitutional eligibility of presidential candidates was established before politicians could assume the highest office in the land. I wish my colleagues in the news media believed the Constitution really means what it says and pressed this issue as hard as we have pressed it at WND. I wish radio talk-show hosts were bold enough to ask this question. But wishing is not enough. It’s time to raise the visibility of this issue vital to the rule of law in America. I ask everyone to pitch in and help WND make a simple yet profound statement: The Constitution still matters.”
Your donation – from as little as $5 to as much as $1,000 – can be made online at the WND SuperStore. (Donations are not tax-deductible. Donations of amounts greater than $1,000 can be arranged by calling either 541-474-1776 or 1-800-4WND.COM. If you would prefer to mail in your contributions, they should be directed to WND, P.O. Box 1627, Medford, Oregon, 97501. Be sure to specify the purpose of the donation by writing “billboard” on the check. In addition, donations of billboard space will be accepted, as will significant contributions specifically targeted for geographic locations.)
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