George W. Bush "miss me yet?" billboard derails day for MPR's Bob Collins

The New York Daily News was among many national news outlets that picked up on MPR's billboard story. Click to enlarge.
The New York Daily News was among many national news outlets that picked up on MPR's billboard story. Click to enlarge.
Screengrab via New York Daily News

Minnesota Public Radio's Bob Collins thought he was hallucinating last week when he was driving a rural stretch of I-35 south after a visit to Wrenshall when he spied a billboard with The Decider's happy-go-lucky visage staring out at traffic, accompanied by the message, "Miss me yet?"

That was no hallucination, as it turns out. By Monday, a listener had e-mailed a picture of the same billboard to the station, so Collins, who writes the Newscut blog, posted the photo along with a public appeal to find out who had paid for the sign - and whether they were serious, or making a joke.

"It was a nice little yarn," Collins said. "Almost a throwaway post."

By Tuesday afternoon, he knew who the billboard's backers were and posted the news. Mary Teske, the general manager of Schubert & Hoey Outdoor Advertising said it was paid for by a group of small business owners unhappy with Washington who evidently wanted to get their message out in a fun way. But by then the story had gone viral and turned into a time suck for Collins.

National Public Radio picked the story up first. Huffington Post ran with it. Then the Drudge Report linked to the post, his phone began to ring incessantly and comments below the post turned so vile - including racial slurs against President Barack Obama - that he had to switch them off and delete the filth.

"Drudge is really the nation's assignment desk," he said, marveling at how editors around the country turn to well-worn - and reliable - political conflicts to grab a fleeting moment of audience share -- and how Drudge can turn them on a dime.

"What they want to do is set up the same old argument. Bush is better than Obama. Obama is better than Bush. Whatever. It's moronic," he said. And he wasn't willing to play along. By Tuesday afternoon he'd turned down interview requests from Fox News, MSNBC, CBS and Inside Edition.

There's more important things going on, he said.

Update: Listen to Collins talk about the billboard with The Current's Mary Lucia:

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