MASON CITY — A Mason City billboard that caused a media firestorm on Tuesday has been replaced by another sign.
A new sign created by the North Iowa Tea Party — this one featuring President Thomas Jefferson — will go up today or Friday, said spokesman Bob Johnson.
The picture on the billboard on the 600 block of South Federal Avenue showed President Barack Obama alongside dictators Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Lenin.
Reaction was swift and brutal, Johnson said.
“The sign is now covered out of respect for other Tea Party people,” he said.
“The national (Tea Party) people are right, in that it is a distraction from the message the Tea Party is trying to get out.”
Reaction came after the publication of the story and photograph of the billboard, first appearing on the Globe Gazette website on Monday evening.
The photograph was picked up by state, national and international news services.
Globe Gazette staff received scores of phone calls and e-mails concerning the issue. Media in India, England, Canada, Czechoslovakia and Vietnam also ran the story.
The billboard was discussed on MSNBC’s “Way Too Early with Willie Geist” and the “The Ed Show,” and other media outlets, such as The Drudge Report, National Public Radio and The Huffington Post.
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Calls to the Globe Gazette came from as far away as North Carolina, Texas, Kansas, Indiana, Maryland and scores of Iowa communities.
The sign showed large photographs of Obama, Hitler and Lenin beneath the labels “Democrat Socialism,” “National Socialism” and “Marxist Socialism.”
Beneath the photos was the phrase, “Radical leaders prey on the fearful & naive.”
Local reaction was quick as well.
Mason City Mayor Eric Bookmeyer called the sign “inexcusable.”
“Thankfully, the parties involved with this came to their senses” by covering the sign, he said.
“Placing Mason City in the limelight nationally and internationally in this manner is despicable and inexcusable. That message does not reflect the core values of our community,” Bookmeyer said.
Shelby Blakely, a leader of the Tea Party Patriots, a national group, said, “There are elements in the media and our administration that would paint the Tea Party as racist, unjust, ignorant rednecks — that’s why this gets so much play.
“The National Tea Party does not agree with it; we do not support it. It uses a propaganda cliche and it’s inflammatory.”
Helen Karamitros, a sociology professor at North Iowa Area Community College, wondered if the billboard story, appearing on the day the NAACP condemned the Tea Party, might have helped feed the frenzy.
“Whether it is true or not, Tea Party groups tend to create an underlying concern about it being a racist group — and race is a volatile issue,” she said.
"Placing Mason City in the limelight nationally and internationally in this manner is despicable and inexcusable."
— Mason City Mayor, Eric Bookmeyer