GREENSBORO — A controversial Greensboro billboard installed by a former Keller Williams One agent was taken down after the local real estate agency learned what it said.
People who recently traveled north on N.C. 68 near Interstate 40 likely saw the billboard promoting misinformation about the COVID-19 pandemic.
Alongside an image of a Pepe the Frog — an cartoon image turned internet meme that is now deemed a “hate symbol” by the Anti-Defamation League — was a short message:
“Tired of the Plandemic? Move to the Country!”
Beneath that, the name “Chris” and a phone number to text.
“What’s a plandemic?” one commenter asked on the website Reddit, where the image was shared and discussed in more than 100 comments.
The term “plandemic” stems from a conspiracy-filled video released in May 2020, just two months into the global COVID-19 pandemic that has since claimed nearly 700,000 lives, according to the latest data from the CDC.
The viral plandemic video not only featured false claims about the coronavirus, but suggested the rich were using the pandemic to gain more money and power.
Reddit commenters called the billboard ignorant.
“A real estate agent using right-wing conspiracy signals to sell property,” one commenter wrote. “Wow.”
The billboard was installed by a now-former agent with the Keller Williams office, according to Broker-In-Charge Bill Warmath.
“It was installed without the permission of the then-Broker-In-Charge of our firm,” Warmath said in an email.
Warmath went on to say that the billboard’s “inaccurate and inflammatory content” didn’t reflect the “core values and guiding principles” of Keller Williams One.
“As a result, once I found out about its existence, I required it to be removed as soon as possible,” Warmath said.
The advertisement was taken down within a week of Warmath learning of it and the agent — the “Chris” referenced on the billboard — is no longer affiliated with the Keller William office, Warmath said.
Lamar Advertising, the company that owns the N.C. 68 billboard, also said the message was “not sufficiently vetted” before it was posted.
According to Allie McAlpin, the advertising company’s vice president of marketing services and communication, Lamar Advertising supports First Amendment rights. The company allows political, editorial, public service and other noncommercial message to be advertised on their billboards.
“While we do not accept or reject copy based on agreement or disagreement with the views expressed, we do reserve the right to reject any copy found to be factually inaccurate, obscene or offensive,” McAlpin said in an email.
A formal process is in place to evaluate submitted copy, but in the case of the Plandemic billboard, the message was not properly evaluated, she said.
Contact Jamie Biggs at 336-373-4476 and follow @JamieBiggsNR on Twitter.