Thanks to the Freedom of Information Act, we all now have an inside view as to what went down after the State’s tourism officials first heard of the controversial ad, which had been designed and distributed in London:
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 documents also reveal the ad agency’s philosophy – reclaiming “so gay” to bolster the state’s image as an inclusive vacation destination. The scandal, which caused the approving South Carolina employee to resign, ended up tarnishing the state’s image.