ELKHART — Take a peek at it while you can. If you want.
The controversial U.S. Navy SEALs-themed billboard targeting President Obama’s re-election bid still sits off Nappannee Street, a week after the Democrat’s victory at the polls. But it won’t be there to see much longer, according to the advertising company that manages the spot.
The billboard — reading “The Navy SEALs removed one threat to America... The voters must remove the other” — went up in early August, financed by a tea party group, We the People of Marshall and Fulton Counties. Don Nunemaker, the Plymouth man who heads the group, said Monday that the deal with Perma Advertising called for the message to remain through Oct. 31. What happens now, nearly two weeks later, is out of his hands.
Jim Heierman of Perma Advertising in Pierceton, though, said the sign will probably be turned around sometime next week. There’s no immediate buyer of the space, but the canvas containing the message — which spurred at least two demonstrations in August — is to be flipped around so it’s no longer visible to passing motorists.
“It’s time to have that over with and done,” said Heierman, called while on vacation, away from the office. “I don’t want to be messing with it. I don’t want it to be advertising something that’s past tense.”
Perma manages perhaps 30 or 40 billboards with political advertising of all sorts, Heierman said, and all of them are to be flipped in the near term as well. Typically, a billboard will remain visible — even if the contract period for its presentation has expired — until a new buyer of the space is secured.
In the context of a political message, though, “that’s not conducive to the situation,” Heierman said.
Critics included the heads of the Democratic and Republican partieis in Elkhart County. Some charged that the message hinted at violence and that it inappropriately equated Obama with Al-Qaida leader Osama Bin Laden, killed last year at the hand of Navy SEALs.
Nunemaker at the time maintained that the billboard message was simply a call for the public to vote. He said Monday, though, that the “threat” referenced has not yet gone away.
“Until (Obama’s) removed at the next election we’re going to face a lot of difficulty,” Nunemaker said.
Noting Obama’s win last week, Shari Mellin, head of the Elkhart County Democratic Party, said the message didn’t seem to be that effective. “I still think it’s in very poor taste,” she said.