A movie advertisement in the Clarendon Metro station telling President Barack Obama to "go to hell" has raised eyebrows in Northern Virginia.
The ad, for a movie called "Sick & Sicker," which is critical of the president's health care reform initiative, states, "Barack Obama wants politicians and bureaucrats to control America's entire medical system."
It adds: "Go to hell Barack."
U.S. Rep. Jim Moran, D-Va., called on the Washington Metro Area Transit Authority, or WMATA, to remove the ad.
“This advertisement is inappropriate, disrespectful of the President, and should be removed immediately,” Moran stated in a news release. “The families with children and thousands of tourists who take Metro everyday should not be subjected to such garbage. I understand WMATA vets these advertisements before allowing them to go up, but it seems someone wasn’t doing their job when this ad was approved.”
But the Metro board is prohibited from removing an ad based on its political content, spokesman Dan Stessel told Patch.
According to a statement issued by Metro: "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. WMATA does not endorse the advertising on our system, and ads do not reflect the position of the Authority."
In 1984, a U.S. Court of Appeals overturned a lower court's decision that allowed Metro to refuse an ad based on political content.
The case, Lebron v. Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, centered on an artist's attempt to display an ad that was critical of then-President Ronald Reagan.
Metro deferred questions about the ad buy to CBS Outdoor, which handles advertising for WMATA.
CBS Outdoor declined to comment, so it's unclear which stations the ad appears in or for how long it will run.
Filmmaker Logan Clements, who placed the ad, did not immediately respond to a message left by Patch.
Moran stated in a subsequent news release that he was "disappointed" by WMATA's defense of keeping the ad in place.
“If their current advertising guidelines do not prohibit profane advertisements on taxpayer-funded property, then WMATA should take the initiative and update them. Profanity has no place in the public forum," Moran stated.
“The specific language in the WMATA-approved ad that should be removed is not political, it’s profane. It defames the President of the United States in a way that coarsens the public discourse. All Americans have the right to make their voice heard under the First Amendment. But when we are talking about an advertisement on tax-payer funded facilities, as is the case with Metro, it should meet the minimum standards of propriety. I repeat my call on WMATA to exercise appropriate judgment and remove this offensive ad.”
Moran spokeswoman Anne Hughes told Patch that the congressman's office had heard from a number of people about the matter Wednesday.
"We’ve heard from a number of constituents in all platforms – phone calls, twitter, etc," Hughes told Patch in an email.
"People are upset – and rightfully so."