Metro chief: Offended by anti-Obama ad but powerless to remove it

The chief of Washington Metro said Friday that he was deeply offended by an advertisement in one of its subway stations that criticizes President Obama, even as he reiterated that his agency could not remove the ad.

Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) General Manager Richard Sarles wrote an email to employees of the transit agency explaining his position on the ad, which includes the phrase “Go to hell, Barack.” The ad, which appears in the Clarendon, Va., Metro station, is for a film that is critical of the federal healthcare law.

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Sarles said he asked the maker of the advertisement, which he said is a Los Angeles-based company called Freestar Movie LLC, to remove or modify the ad, but the company declined.

Like many of you, I am deeply offended by this ad and find it disrespectful to President Obama, and the nation, Sarles wrote in the email to Metro employees, which was obtained by The Hill. 

WMATA did not decide to accept this ad for reasons of revenue, rather we cannot reject it because the courts have ruled that the Metro advertising program provides a public forum protected by the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution. There are very few limits placed on freedom of speech and, unfortunately, the language used in the ad would not be included under those few exceptions.  

Sarles said the advertisement will continue to appear in the Metro station for the length of the agencys contract with the movie company, which is set to expire March 11.

Please remember that the views and opinions expressed in this ad, or any other that appears on the system, are not endorsed by WMATA and do not represent the views of the agency, he wrote to Metro employees. 

Rep. Jim Moran (D-Va.), whose district includes the Metro station that contains the Obama advertisement, had called on WMATA to remove the advertisement on the grounds that it was profane, not political.

It defames the president of the United States in a way that coarsens the public discourse, Moran said in a news release that called attention to the advertisement.

The creator of the film the advertisement is promoting, 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.

Im extremely upset the government is going to take over healthcare. Im not mildly upset. Im extremely upset.

Anti-Obama ad in the Washington Metro, Getty Images