More than 60 protesters — mainly middle-aged and senior citizens — are described as "radicals" and "homosexuals" by a controversial political action committee (PAC) that funded an inflammatory ad in The Herald-Tribune.
The protesters, described as a mob in a news release by Government Is Not God political action committee, were no louder than a competitive bingo game as they stood chatting to media along a sidewalk Thursday afternoon. The protesters said they organized to raise attention to concerns they have about the PAC and its tactics.
Some of the protesters were dressed ineatly n polo shirts and pleated shorts. They held signs with messages that included "Stop The False Ads" and "Bad Judgment Or Stupid."
There was no jostling or blocking passersby, as protesters advised one another to yield to people trying to walk by; they certainly were not the mob as described by the PAC.
Kindra Muntz organized the protest, calling it a "witness" as opposed to a rally, and was less than pleased with the PAC.
"They are morally bankrupt as far as I'm concerned," Muntz said about the PAC. "Whoever is putting this out has no sense. They're not interested in addressing the issues that are really important to American people. They're just trying to stir up hate and anger and fear in religions. It's causing divisiveness in our communities."
The quarter-page ad in question features Obama and claims saying he will "move America to" force all states to legalize same-sex marriages, have courts accept Sharia Law in domestic disputes, force Christian schools to hire non-Christians, force businesses to give illegal immigrants jobs, among other claims. The Government Is Not God political action committee funded the ad.
"This ad offends Jews, Christians, Muslims, gays, women, the medical community," Muntz said. "I mean, give me a break."
Some members were equally as upset with their hometown paper publishing the ad as they take great pride and ownership of the Pulitzer Prize-winning publication.
"The press has a responsibility to provide fair, accurate information to the electorate," said Donna Cubit-Swoyer of Sarasota Alliance for Fair Elections. "Now, I know they need to make money, but selling a page in the paper to distortions like that doesn't help them. … I'm upset with the Herald with the discretion they did not use. That's my hometown paper; I read it everyday."
Ultimately, the situation would be averted if the Citizens United decision would be overturned, she added. The Supreme Court decision allowed unlimited contributions in campaign ads not tied to a candidate. .
Tampa Bay Times' Politifact.com rated each bullet point in the ad, saying most are either false, or the most extreme of falsehoods, "Pants on Fire."
The Herald-Tribune ran an apology in Wednesday's paper stating "that the advertisement did not meet the Herald-Tribune standards for fairness and accuracy and we apologize to our readers for the advertisement appearing in the newspaper."
One protester, Thelma Lemberg, gently tapped a Patch reporter's notebook to inform him that she's canceling her Herald-Tribune subscription.
"Where is truth? Truth? Truth in advertising?" she said. "Ha, ha, ha."
Nom Dumaine of Sarasota hoped the apology would have been more prominent. The apology ran on Page 2A in Wednesday's paper, containing a paragraph, where the advertisement was a quarter page on Page 14A.
"It seems to me it's a pretty ingenuous apology," he said. "That should have been on the editorial page in big print."
GING Chairman William J. Murray was also disappointed with The Herald-Tribune's apology, though for very different reasons, in a news release posted on the PAC site:
“Sarasota Herald Tribune is responding to the mob the same way that Barack Hussein Obama responded to the Muslim mobs in Libya. After our Ambassador and three other Americans were killed, Obama apologized for the exercise of free speech in America.” Murray said, “Basically, the Sarasota Herald Tribune is apologizing to the radical left mob just as Obama apologized to the radical Islamic mobs.”
No one authorized to comment from The Herald-Tribune made themselves available during the protest, but a reporter was present to write a story on the event.
"I'm concerned going forward that they use a little sense and judgment," Muntz said. "We need sense and sanity in the media, and in politics. You don't need the device hate talk and incendiary rhetoric that causes fear, hate and anger in people."
The group was not all seniors and middle-aged folk. A couple Occupy Sarasota protesters showed up including Christopher Young, who doesn't support either candidate, coming to talk about eliminating a predominately two-party system. He doesn't think the ad should have been published.
"I do think there's a borderline on free speech when it comes down to hatefulness," Young said. "I don't think that's speech at all. It's hate, and we're trying to get rid of hate."