Good Lord, all he had to do was say he caved under the "outrage" of a bunch of knuckle-dragging legislators (who were already no friends of ours here in the Lowcountry) bent on demonizing queers for political gain since outright racism has lost a lot of its charm as a campaign moneymaker. But, nooooooooooooooo!
Yesterday, SCPRT Director Chad Prosser penned a letter to the Anderson Independent-Mail News giving his version of events. Prosser was responding to a previous editorial in that paper.
Ad did not represent South Carolina
Sunday, August 3, 2008
There’s been a lot of discussion recently over whether South Carolina should actively sponsor advertising or promotions directed specifically at the gay travel market. Sparked by a third-party promotion conducted by a tour operator in London, those who would take sides on the issue have sounded off about whether this is a good or bad thing.
As the state’s official tourism marketing arm, it’s the job of the professionals at the South Carolina Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism (SCPRT) to make sure that all visitors and prospective visitors to our state understand that they are welcome here. We also want our visitors to know that we appreciate their leaving behind some of their hard-earned cash to benefit South Carolina’s economy. It saddens me both personally and professionally that any group would perceive otherwise.
It’s important to understand that Amro Worldwide’s “That’s so gay” promotional posters are not state tourism ads. They do not contain South Carolina’s tourism logo, Web site address or photography. We did not place the ads. And we did not pull the ads, because they were not ours to pull. We have no objection to Amro Worldwide conducting this campaign with its own resources. But SCPRT management does object to the state’s money or brand being used in the promotion. Why? Because, as is clearly stated in the proposal prepared by the tour operator’s publicist, “this campaign will ‘reclaim’ the term ‘so gay’ – as a term that is rendered strongly positive for lesbian and gay people. It also allows gay and lesbian people to feel that the term is being neutered as a negative putdown…”
SCPRT does not feel that it is necessary to use sensational content, such as a negative putdown directed at a particular group, in order to market our state to tourists. Furthermore, Amro’s poster about South Carolina contained stock photography and product claims (e.g., “gay beaches”) that are not accurately representative of South Carolina’s tourism product.
SCPRT does not blame the tour operator for this incident. It was reasonable for Amro Worldwide to think that it had the approval of SCPRT through our contract representative in London. In fact, our contractor in London has already paid Amro for the promotion. So why is Amro continuing to carp about our decision? Free publicity perhaps?
To his credit, the employee at SCPRT who initially approved participation in Amro’s promotion, has taken responsibility for his action and resigned in a letter to his supervisor dated July 11, 2008. And, SCPRT’s contractor in London has absorbed the $4,942.50 cost of the Amro promotion. Thus, no state dollars have gone to fund this promotion.
As Director of SCPRT, I take full responsibility for the organizational failure that allowed one employee to approve this third-party promotion without it undergoing the same scrutiny and review that all SCPRT ads undergo. We have made internal changes to ensure this doesn’t happen again.
For those skeptics who imply that the Amro promotion was a strategic decision made by SCPRT at the policy level, I invite them to review all of the documents, correspondence and e-mails made public this week by SCPRT. This paper trail clearly demonstrates that the employee in question acted on his own without the knowledge of even his direct supervisor.
While the facts are not nearly as sensational as all of the speculation, they do demonstrate what actually happened. I hope that the media that have reported otherwise will demonstrate the same level of character as those at SCPRT who have taken responsibility for their actions.
Jeez Louise! This story is waaaay more fun than school vouchers. Who knew Republicans and Governor Mark Sanford's peeps could keep this one going for sooooooooo long. I, for one, am deriving a great deal of entertainment from these losers' ham-handed attempts at spin control.
As soon as somebody teaches me the rudimentary skills needed to post the SCPRT emails detailing this comedy of bureaucratic errors, I'll get 'em to y'all.
From The State:
E-mails: "So Gay" ad surprised SC tourism leaders
By JIM DAVENPORT - Associated Press Writer
COLUMBIA, S.C. --When an ad campaign appeared in the London Underground promoting South Carolina as a "So Gay" destination for gay and lesbian tourists, the spokesman for the state's tourism agency shared his unease with a colleague.
"I'm praying this little story doesn't jump the pond, especially as the later summer slow news cycle sets in," Marion Edmonds wrote in a July 3 e-mail. "Let's hope that doesn't get picked up by some SC tourist and brought back. It would be a classic case of a picture doing the damage of a thousand words."
Edmonds' prayer was not answered. The story broke in early July in the blogosphere, and then moved into mainstream news reports.
A pile of e-mail printouts at the South Carolina Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department illustrates the agency's confused response to the ads - which apparently were approved by a lone employee who may not have even looked at them - and the media storm that followed.
Freedom of Information requests yielded a four-inch stack of e-mail and documents dating to 2004.
The communications suggest an agency employee, who since has resigned, decided to spend $4,942.50 from a tourism promotion fund he controlled on the campaign designed to draw South Carolina trip bookings during London Pride, a gay event.
State officials quickly reneged on the decision to spend money on the ads. Tourism industry experts said by washing its hands of the ad campaign, the state is losing out on lucrative business.
John Tanzella, executive director of the International Gay & Lesbian Travel Association, last month called it "mind-boggling" that South Carolina wouldn't invest $5,000 to draw tourism from a lucrative niche market.
The hundreds of e-mails show the agency's leadership figuring out how and why the ads were running in the first place and hoping the story would blow over.
The same day that spokesman Edmonds sent his note to Amy Duffy, the agency's chief of staff, one of Duffy's longtime friends forwarded an e-mail from an employee who was vacationing in London.
It included pictures from a gay tour promoter's Web site talking up South Carolina's Civil War roots and gay beaches. "Imagine my surprise in seeing this poster in a London Underground station," the employee wrote. "Who knew?"
A document from Amro Worldwide, the tour promoter, says the posters along escalators were designed to change attitudes and "'reclaim' the term 'so gay' as a term that is rendered strongly positive for lesbian and gay people. It also allows gay and lesbian people to feel that the term is being neutered as a negative putdown, by portraying 'so gay' as they experience it - to be a very good thing indeed; for gay consumers and for each destination highlighted."
Atlanta, Boston and New Orleans were among the six locations featured on the "So Gay" posters.
The Amro Worldwide document, along with images of the proposed poster, were sent to Rand Romaine, the Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department's sales manager, by Kirsty Dillury, the agency's contract representative in the United Kingdom, for approval two days before a deadline to include them in the display.
"As you can see the images are very powerful and work well together," Dillury writes on May 19. She follows up the next day, pressing Romaine for approval.
"It's good to go," Romaine replies.
It was the only communication from the agency approving the ad. None of the e-mail shows Romaine vetted the ad with agency managers before they first appeared June 27.
Chad Prosser, the state agency director, said he learned about the ads July 3 with the note forwarded from Duffy's friend.
Edmonds, the department spokesman, had learned about them on June 30 with news releases.
Taxpayers soon found out about them, too.
"This needs to be stopped immediately!" wrote Tom Irby, a Belton retiree, in an e-mail to Republican Gov. Mark Sanford, Prosser's boss after the news broke in South Carolina. "The persons responsible for this travesty should be fired!"
Romaine, who had worked at PRT since 1996, resigned July 11. Prosser says it was voluntary. Romaine did not respond to calls from the AP.
Romaine told Duffy in an e-mail he didn't "specifically recall seeing the actual ad creative." Duffy and Edmonds said the agency's computer techs weren't able to show that Romaine had ever opened the file Dillury had sent with the details.
"I saw a sales opportunity and reacted," Romaine wrote.
The agency's reaction appeared confused. For instance, on July 3, Romaine told Dillury he'd been ordered to get the ads taken down, but reversed himself 20 minutes later at Prosser's direction.
"We were going through the process and beginning to look at taking action," and didn't want to embarrass the state, Prosser said. At the time, "we didn't think it was something that we needed to make a big deal out of."
Meanwhile, computer technicians had to open the agency's Internet filter so Edmonds could see how the story played out on gay Web sites.
Ultimately, tour operator was paid - but out of Dillury's company's funds.
Prosser brushes aside questions about the publicity that South Carolina attracted.
"South Carolina is a tremendous tourism product. It appeals to a broad group of people," he said. "We do welcome everyone. Our job is just to keep getting that message out beyond the static that's being caused by certain groups."
I heard from Ian Johnson of OutNow again last week and he clued me in on the identity of the "low level" SCPRT who had supposedly resigned. When I hear it from the mouth of the employee in question, Rand Romaine, that he has indeed left his job (and not been reassigned somewhere else, promoted or demoted in the SCPRT), then I'll believe it.
And by the by, everybody in England got paid...in full...except SC's middleman for this kind of thing TTM World. And the posters are still hanging in their display cases in the London Tube.
From the friendly folks at UK Gay News and Q-Notes, you'll find more details about this nonsense:
South Carolina ‘So Gay’ Campaign: Who Really Did What?
Employee forced to resign was not ‘low level’
By UK Gay News | Article Date: 7/26/2008 6:00 AM
There was further intrigue in the ongoing saga over the ‘So Gay’ poster campaign on two London Underground stations that the South Carolina Parks Recreation and Tourism (SCPRT) Department has been involved in during the past two weeks, it has emerged.
And there is considerable doubt over some statements that were made in South Carolina regarding the controversy.
According to Out Now, the agency that created the ‘So Gay’ advertising campaign for gay travel specialist, Amro Worldwide, there have been incorrect statements made by the office headed by Chad Prosser of the SCPRT.
“The employee forced to resign is by no means a ‘low level’ employee, as was very widely reported last week by official SCPRT spokespeople,” said Ian Johnson, chief executive officer of Out Now.
“That person who approved the ‘So Gay’ advertising campaign, and was later forced to resign by SCPRT, is the International Sales Manager, responsible for the UK, a person with more than a decade of management experience and an immense amount of respect within the global tourism marketing community,” Johnson revealed.
[While Johnson declined to name the employee, Q-Notes names him as Randolph Romaine, an international sales manager responsible for the U.K. market and others, “a class three economic development manager according to other state documents”, according to Q-Notes.]
“To hear reports that a ‘low level’ employee resigned gives the public the wrong impression that this campaign did not get approved by proper decision making channels,” he added.
“That is not the case. The correct decision maker made a business decision to proceed with the campaign. There is no way this person can be described as ‘low level’.
“At all times everyone involved in the process—Out Now, Amro Worldwide, the SCPRT London reps and the International Sales Manager at SCPRT made decisions based on what is best for increasing revenues for the South Carolina tourism industry.
“What changed two weeks ago is that politicians decided to involve themselves, and it was then that a resignation was forced with the ‘official’ reports emanating from the office headed by Chad Prosser being that this employee was a ‘low level’ one,” he said.
According to the chief executive of Amro Worldwide, Andrew Roberts, his company have been paid in full for the campaign. Last week, both politicians and official in the State capital Columbia publicly said that the bill of just under $5,000 would not be paid.
“Amro Worldwide has received full payment from the London representatives of SCPRT, a company called Travel and Tourism Marketing—TTM World—who have acted in the utmost good faith at every stage in the advertising approval process,” said Roberts.
“Amro Worldwide is currently considering reimbursing TTM World for their loss, but we think it quite disgraceful that an official State government body would behave in this manner.
“Not paying representatives and forcing a senior manager to resign seems out of all proportion with our simple but effective gay travel marketing campaign.
“On top of all that, it saddens me that the hard working folk in the SC tourism industry, who this campaign was designed to help, look set to suffer loss for years to come due to the homophobic reaction of their elected representatives,” Roberts added.
Johnson said the saga looked like “a clear case of political interference, pure and simple.
“In an election year, in a ‘red’ [Republican] State, you have politicians thinking there might be a few votes in a bit of gay bashing.
“Not a good look for the majority of South Carolinians who, judging from the many supportive messages received by both Out Now and Amro Worldwide, are appalled by the conduct of their elected representatives.”
Last week, the organisers of South Carolina Gay Pride launched a fundraising campaign to raise the $5,000 that the State is refusing to pay as, according to Ray Wilson “the ‘word’ of South Carolina can’t be trusted—we believe it is the right thing to do, to repay this debt.”
In five days, the appeal has raised just over $1,000.
The fundraising will continue, said Pride spokesperson Ryan Wilson. “The London representative of SCPRT has paid Amro, but the State Treasurer’s Office has not paid Travel and Tourism Marketing—TTM World,” he pointed out.
In a classic case of "you're only as good as your people are", US Senator Jim DeMint (R-SC) has a link on his website's disclaimer to a video that is prima facie unfunny and a fine example of gay-bashing...plain and simple.
You would think that a UNITED STATES SENATOR would have a better grasp of what his website masters and his political consultant Warren Tompkins are up to back at the home office. I saw this tidbit on Adam Fogle's "The Palmetto Scoop" website and followed the trail myself. Hey, you gotta pay attention to the other side, right? Anyhoo, both Fogle and the recently wed Will Folks' FITS News (note: it's legal for a perpetrator of criminal domestic violence to enter into legal matrimony) wrote posts wondering just what-in-the-hell is going on over there.
If I had a better grasp of procedure, I would have posted the video here. As it is, you'll have to rely on Mr. Fogle's expertise.
By Adam Fogle | July 1, 2008 - 4:59 pm - Posted in U.S. Congress (www.thepalmettoscoop.com)
DISCLAIMER ON SENATOR’S WEBSITE SENDS VISITORS TO VIDEO ABOUT ‘COMING OUT OF CLOSET’
I honestly have no idea what this is all about, but Sen. Jim DeMint’s website, which recently won acclaim from McClatchy Newspapers, is sending visitors to the above YouTube video (ed: NOT PG-13) in which a 20-something guy “comes out of the closet” to his friends. Literally and figuratively.
It’s really not all that funny but it’s certainly an odd thing for a sitting U.S. Senator to have on his Website.
The link can be found on the site’s disclaimer, where it reads “Website by Under The Power Lines” — the company that developed DeMint’s site and apparently these videos as well. When visitors click on “Under the Power Lines,” they are taken to TheCoveShorts’ YouTube page, featuring the above video.
Readers may remember that this same group was responsible for the Phoney Fred Wesbite launched during the height of the Republican presidential primary battle.
Perhaps it would be a good idea for these guys to stay away from the Internet tubes.
Jodie Foster is out o' the closet. I know this is true because I just saw it on CNN.
Well over a week ago, Ms. Foster accepted the "Sherry Lansing Leadership Award" at the 16th Annual Women in Entertainment Breakfast. During her remarks, she thanked, "my beautiful Cydney who sticks with me through all the rotten and the bliss."
It certainly took mainstream media long enough to pick up on this little nugget, but then they're all busy running around being "Chicken Little" about the threat to the American healthcare system posed by illegal aliens or some other nonsense.
Cydney Bernard, a former film production coordinator, and Ms. Foster are the parents of two young sons and are having a gay ole time out in beautiful sunny Southern California.