In response to a court ruling requiring the MTA to post ads that call enemies of Israel "savages" in subway stations, the MTA says it will add a disclaimer to ads with political, religious or moral content in the future. NY1's Tina Redwine filed the following report.
From now on, subway ads will have to include another message besides the one they're meant to carry, one that says "don't blame the MTA."
On Thursday, the MTA board changed its policy on non-commercial advertising following a controversial ad campaign that hit subways this week.
The new policy states that in future, any ads with political, religious or moral content will have to include a disclaimer.
"This is a paid advertisement sponsored by [Sponsor]. The display of this advertisement does not imply MTA’s endorsement of any views expressed," the disclaimer reads.
The ad that sparked the policy change said Israel must be supported in the war between civilized man and "savages."
Many riders took offense.
“How dare these ads call Muslims and Palestinians savage,” said one MTA bus driver.
The MTA first refused to run the ads, citing its advertising guidelines that prohibit content that would demean an individual or group.
However, two months ago, a federal judge found that their decision violated the first amendment right to free speech.
Ten of the ads went up and all of them were defaced within hours. Several have not been reposted.
“It would have been a capitulation to the mob and to critical media,” said Pamela Geller, the head of the American Freedom Defense Initiative, the group that bought the ad. “So to us, we're thrilled.”
The Initiative called the MTA's decision a victory for free speech and said it would gladly add the disclaimer to future ads.
Mayor Michael Bloomberg also supported the MTA's decision.
"Sometimes, people put up ads you don't agree with," the mayor said. "But if you want to be able to put up yours, you’ve got to let them put up theirs. And on balance, this country seems to have gotten that right."
Chairman Joseph Lhota said the MTA deplores hate messages but said it's the price of democracy.
“You deal with a first amendment issue, you deal with a free speech issue with more free speech,” said Lhota.
Many riders said those making the remarks should be held accountable.
“The MTA is doing it to sort of get their back free and, you know, allowing everybody to say whatever they want,” said one subway rider.
Sources say the MTA will still ban ads it finds to be incendiary or too dangerous to put up but didn't say how these decisions will be made.