An Iowa tea party group has replaced a billboard comparing President Barack Obama with Adolf Hitler and Vladimir Lenin, calling the sign a bad decision that reflected poorly on the organization.
Workers papered over the sign in downtown Mason City Wednesday at the request of the North Iowa Tea Party.
"We got it covered up first thing this morning," said Kent Beatty, the general manager of the company that owns the billboard.
The roughly 200-member tea party group had the original sign put up last week. It showed photographs of Obama, Nazi leader Hitler, and communist leader Lenin beneath the labels "Democrat Socialism," "National Socialism," and "Marxist Socialism."
After the billboard drew sharp criticism by other state and national tea party leaders, members of the local group sought the change.
North Iowa Tea Party co-founder Bob Johnson said he and other leaders agreed with critics that the image of Obama between Hitler and Lenin was offensive. The images overwhelmed the intended message of anti-socialism, he said.
"They are absolutely right in their criticism because the image of Hitler just totally wiped everything else and it misrepresents the tea party movement," Johnson said. "They were right from the standpoint that the image was not a positive reflection on the tea people."
Hitler images usually are not allowed at North Iowa Tea Party gatherings, he said.
Removal of the sign was welcomed by the American Gathering of Holocaust Survivors and their Descendants, a New York-based group.
The North Iowa Tea Party "acted properly in removing the grotesquely offensive sign which should never have been put up in the first place. Had they not acted to remove it they would have severely damaged the credibility of legitimate political causes they espouse," the group said in a statement. "We ask that political groups do not trivialize our suffering in the future by making false analogies with Hitler's horrendous crimes."
For now, the sign has been plastered over with one urging people to notify officials before digging.
But Johnson said the North Iowa Tea Party plans to put up a new sign soon.
That sign will feature a quote that some attribute to Thomas Jefferson that reads, "My reading of history convinces me that most bad government results from too much government." Others argue Jefferson never wrote the statement.
Listed below, in smaller print, will read, "The North Iowa Tea Party stands for individual responsibility, freedom, liberty, less spending, smaller government."
"It's going to be little more bland," Johnson said. 'We paid for a month, so we don't want to waste the money."
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