Three billboards in the Orlando area that depict New York's World Trade Center in flames with the words "Please Don't Vote for a Democrat" are the work of a St. Cloud songwriter and commercial painter who is marketing his latest song.
Mike Meehan doesn't apologize for the in-your-face gripping image that burned itself into the collective memory of Americans who recall the events of Sept. 11, 2001. The billboards went up Sunday, he said, and have already sparked controversy. Also on the advertisement is his Web address, www.therepublicansong.com, where a CD of the song can be ordered
The billboards are a way to hawk the song, "Please Don't Vote for a Democrat." Since the billboards have hit the roadsides, sales have increased some, he said.
He said he paid for the billboards but won't say how much they cost. He's hoping CD sales will offset the cost. If sales are high, he said more billboards could be the result.
"It's very possible I might put up quite a few more," he said.
"Yes," he said, "I paid for them. It's a small price compared to what our soldiers pay to defend this country and a small price for all those people who were killed when the twin towers were destroyed."
Eric Jotkoff, spokesman for the Florida Democratic Party in Tallahassee, said this morning that he was aware of the billboards.
"The fact that the Republican Party and their allies are using the national tragedy of Sept. 11, 2001, for partisan political gain is shameful," he said in a prepared statement. "The Republican leadership should stop playing politics with the death of nearly 3,000 Americans and join us in calling for the billboards to come down," he said.
The Republican Party of Florida spokeswoman Katie Gordon said her party has nothing to do with the billboards, but supports Meehan's right to free speech.
"I would hope that people driving by the billboards would not automatically assume the Republican Party was behind it," she said. "We are certainly not."
The billboards do spark debate about issues of national security, and that's a good thing, she said, the disturbing images notwithstanding.
Meehan is aware of the criticism of the billboards, he said, but he said people should remember what happened seven years ago.
"Some people are taking offense," he said. "I find it just as disturbing not to put the trade towers up and not to remind people of the terrorists. We need to show this more often. People don't ever see [these images] anymore. Now, you show it again, and everybody's shocked, as if it happened today."
Meehan said he had been a professional musician until about 15 years ago and even once had stepped in to play a Central Florida venue when Jerry Lee Lewis failed to show up for a concert.
Currently, he owns AAA All Star, a commercial painting contracting company in Central Florida, he said.
He said he recorded "Please Don't Vote for a Democrat" last year with a country slant, but this year's version has more of a rock 'n' roll sound, "with kind of a Van Halen solo."