Officials in Clearwater want to make it understood: They did not ban a billboard supporting gay marriage.
And, although some delegates will be staying here, Clearwater is not the host city of the Republican National Convention.
The city is being criticized in a national advertising campaign by dating website beautifulpeople.com for censoring a billboard that depicts presidential candidate Mitt Romney betrothed to real estate mogul Donald Trump by President Barack Obama because it is the site of the RNC.
“I would expect the hate mail to begin tomorrow and after that if it doesn’t get corrected,” said Joelle Castelli, city spokeswoman.
Greg Hodge, managing director of beautifulpeople.com, launched the advertising campaign to bring awareness to the dating website's new gay and lesbian version.
The censored billboard has white-space cutouts rather than the images of the actors portraying the politicians and businessman. The billboard is up through August. The RNC is Aug. 27-30 in Tampa.
Castelli said she was called and questioned by members of the media about the censored billboard, and that is how she found out about the issue. Castelli talked to officials in the city attorney's office and planning department and was told they did not know anything about the billboard and that they don’t regulate billboard content.
Castelli said the proposed billboard is near the intersection of State Road 580 and Belcher Road in unincorporated Pinellas County. City officials were told Clear Channel Communications did not approve of the billboard.
Officials at Clear Channel did not return calls before publishing time.
Castelli talked to Much and House Public Relations, which issued the release for the dating website through PR Newswire, a national press release wire service.
“They said they would fix it,” Castelli said.
The censored images, originally a playful take on political dissonance, have gone up in 10 locations around Los Angeles including West Hollywood, California — one of the largest LGBT communities in the country — and Clearwater, Florida – the site of the 2012 Republican National Convention. The city banned the original campaign images, which have now been released in their uncensored form via mobile billboards in New York City.
Later an update to the release was issued, citing Clear Channel Outdoor for censoring the billboard content:
BeautifulPeople.com issued a news release this morning claiming that the City of Clearwater, Florida rejected their pro-gay marriage billboard campaign featuring lookalikes of Obama and leading political figures. We were given this information, which has since regretfully proven to be incorrect. We would like to sincerely apologize to the City of Clearwater, Florida who have since advised that they did not object to the original campaign content and had no say regarding the content approval process. We have now been informed that Clear Channel Outdoor refused the original billboards. We have requested a statement in writing from Clear Channel and await a response.