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On July 4th, 2012, Huntsville Town continued the tradition of outstanding Independence Day celebrations. It was a wonderful day full of activities. The races, games, and booths were fun. The parade was fun and entertaining. The food, especially the famous “Breakfast in the Park”, was outstanding. The melodrama and videos were entertaining. The flag raising and retirement ceremonies were moving, and the Patriotic program brought tears to our eyes with Keith Renstrom, a veteran of some of the bloodiest battles of the Pacific in WWII, as one of the speakers. We celebrated this country, our heritage, and those who have sacrificed so much for our country. Many volunteers gave so much time and effort bringing about this successful celebration.
Imagine our shock when we saw the Friday morning edition of the Standard Examiner. Front page headline news, “Paradegoers Sickened”. We thought, “what parade is the Standard talking about?” It could not have been the Huntsville parade. As we read the article, we found so much that was wrong, inaccurate, and misleading. The Standard Examiner’s article created contention, hate, and anger, which were unleashed against the Mayor, Town council members, and the people of Huntsville. The mayor and councilmembers immediately began receiving a barrage of phone calls and e-mails full of hate, anger, and threats, from people on all sides of the issue, based on false information published by the Standard Examiner.
Numerous media outlets began calling, asking for statements about the float. The mayor and city council members were immediately asked to respond to something they had not seen and were unfamiliar with, as they were in another section of the parade. Their initial responses were to claims being presented to them which were false. KSL’s Doug Wright seemed upset that he did not get an immediate response from Huntsville Town during his Friday morning show. Huntsville town has no professional public relations department. The mayor and town councilmembers are not professional politicians and serve in their spare time. They receive one dollar a year and each receives a check for four dollars at the end of their term. There are no full time employees. The town hall was fully remodeled by volunteers as are many other projects in Huntsville. This is how Huntsville operates. Huntsville was totally unprepared for the media onslaught brought on by the Standard Examiner.
The float was not hateful, threatening, or racist. It spoofed President Obama’s presidential campaign, Eric Holder with “Fast and Furious”, and the Secret Service South America escapades. Why was DeDe Fluette quoted so extensively when so much of what she said was wrong? The Will Ferrell song “Ladies Man”, which according to the Standard contains the line “The time has come to kill the ladies man” was never played. “Hail to the Chief” and parts of Bee Gee’s “Staying Alive” was played for a dance routine. The back of the float did not say “Plan B: Assault Guns”. It said “Ask about our assault gun plan. Call Eric Holder.” The Standard Examiner turned a reference to “Fast and Furious” to a threat against the President which was completely false. There were no “scantily clad white women”. The girls were wearing jeans and t-shirts. The picture floated around the media of masked Obama grabbing his zipper is also misrepresented. Even the photographer said the picture was taken during a fluid dance move. For the media to try to portray anything crude or of a sexual nature from this float is wrong.
Why was Donn Owen quoted saying that wearing an Obama mask is “racist”? If you can wear a Nixon/Clinton/Bush mask, you can wear an Obama mask. For years we have had fun with current events and politicians. Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton, George W. Bush, Sarah Palin, Janet Reno, and others have been parodied. Republicans have laughed at spoofs on George Bush and democrats have laughed at spoofs on Bill Clinton. It is good and healthy when we can laugh at ourselves. We believe it is American tradition to laugh at ourselves, especially during difficult times. We also believe it is wrong to act out of hate, spite, and anger, or to ever threaten anyone.
If anyone was really upset by this float, we are sorry. But, we also feel the only way anyone could take something wrong from this float is to really misinterpret what was presented or to have read the Standard Examiner’s articles. There was never any “hush over the crowd” as the float went by. There was laughter and cheers throughout the entire parade. Out of almost eight thousand people, only a few felt the float was wrong. If 99% of the people are happy, we think we have done pretty well.
If there was any hate, anger, racism, or threats, it started with the media, particularly the Standard Examiner. How such a poorly researched article, full of inaccuracies and falsehoods, could make the front page is incomprehensible. Only one item was corrected in the next day’s article. Paradegoers were not “sickened”. They had a wonderful day and enjoyed the entire parade. For a couple of individuals and the Standard Examiner to report anything else is inaccurate.
We feel the Standard Examiner owes an apology to Huntsville, especially the mayor and city council, the organizers of the Huntsville 4th of July celebration, the parade organizers, and Standard Examiner readers. We realize an apology may come the same day you read front page headline news “Standard Examiner Readers Sickened Over Tuesday’s Editorial”.