Positive & Inclusive Message Deemed “Objectionable,” Cancelled by Billboard Company

Photo of the billboard that was deemed "objectionable."

A billboard expressing an inclusive, welcoming message to Armstrong County has been deemed “objectionable” and removed by the billboard company.

In the face of an electronic message board in their community for several years with constant messages expressing racist, bigoted, transphobic, anti-Semitic, anti-LGBTQ, and other extremists messages, the Democratic Party in Armstrong County, Pennsylvania decided to place a static billboard nearby with a positive, inclusive, and welcoming message to motorists along Route 422 in Worthington.

“We wanted to express that the people in our county are not accurately reflected in the messages on the electronic board,” said Chuck Pascal, chairman of the Armstrong County Democratic Committee.

Pascal said that in a county where Donald Trump got 75% of the vote in 2020, and where the offensive electronic messages have been rotating for years, “a lot of people– people of color, LGBT people– have had a lot of difficulty feeling comfortable in their own community. Democrats and many Republicans have expressed disgust at those messages. We know that the messages on the electronic boards don’t represent the majority.”

Fueled by donations and significant support from the community, the Committee contracted for the board to be placed for a minimum of one month, and the billboard company, Huntington Billboards of Greenville, Ohio, erected the sign. 

However, within a few days, Huntington Billboards decided they would remove the message, citing a provision in their contract that allows for the removal of billboards that are “objectionable or that attract negative publicity or controversy from the community.” The billboard was removed within one week after it was placed.

“I’m not sure in which universe the message on the billboard is objectionable,” Pascal said, noting as well that the billboard didn’t attract any negative publicity in the media.

A representative of Huntington told Melanie Bowser, who had spearheaded the billboard project and vice chair of the Committee, that the company had been told by the landowner where the billboard is located that he had received death threats and feared for his life as a result of the billboard’s placement. 

But Pascal said that despite these claims, there had not been any reports made to the police about threats made to the landowner or anyone else. “That was just another red herring and outright lie,” to justify removing the billboard, Pascal said. 

“Huntington Billboards is complicit in bigotry and intolerance,” Pascal said. “They have characterized a welcoming and positive message as objectionable and negative and displayed despicable complicity and cowardice in canceling their contract.”

“Huntington’s owners have sided with and catered to the most vile and extreme sentiments in our county.” 

Huntington’s website claims that “We truly love the small towns and cities that make up our company.” But Pascal claims “Huntington’s love apparently only extends to only to the racist, bigoted, anti-Semitic and anti-LGBT sentiments in those towns, and not to everyone.”

“People should know that Huntington Billboards caters to bigotry, and apparently would prefer to have an unrented space to a message which expresses support to an entire population of the small towns they claim to love,” Pascal said. 

“Regardless of the loud bigotry of a small minority, and the irresponsible and unprofessional actions of Huntington, there is no safe harbor in Armstrong County for hate and extremism”, Pascal said. “The vast majority here want Armstrong County to be a place where all people can live with safety and dignity.”

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