Last week, a billboard went up at Wolf Interstate Leasing & Sales, 4855 Miller Street in Wheat Ridge, questioning President Barack Obama's nation of birth and linking him to jihad (and the murders at Fort Hood) in a way some observers saw as racist.
The uproar over the message soon became a big story locally, with a national audience coming along, too, thanks to the sign's blogosphere pervasiveness -- and that's fine by Phil Wolf, the man behind both this board and earlier "Where's the Birth Certificate?" placards hyped by KHOW's Peter Boyles.
Wolf used the controversy to his advantage in a Saturday remote on the FM-country station also known as the Wolf: Customers were given a $200 discount if they brought in their own birth certificates. And while that shtick wasn't a huge smash, he says responses to the billboards have flip-flopped from negative to positive in the past few days.
"Obviously, you get reactions on both sides of the deal," Wolf concedes. "On Friday, it was very much anti what we were doing. But once it hit the general media, it's probably been ten-to-one in favor of us raising this topic. It's just been overwhelming.
"On Saturday, we had some people drive down from Buena Vista -- it turns out that I'd sold them a vehicle twenty-some years ago -- and we had people come up from Colorado Springs," he continues. "And we've had people from out-of-state planning their next buying experience with us because of the sign. We heard from a guy from Connecticut who has a daughter living here, and he said he's putting off buying her a car until he can buy from us. And the reactions continue to be very favorable."
Marijuana Deals Near You
As for the remote, he says "that was kind of a coincidence. We'd been planning to do a remote with them for some time, but we didn't expect this kind of furor. So we did a promotion where we said bring in your birth certificate and you'll get a discount."
Some people did. "Between copies and originals, we had quite a few," he says, "although I was a little disappointed by the promotion side of it. Maybe the other thing dampened it. When you spend money on advertising, you just never know."
As for why the message is resonating, he says, "it's like it is with so many other things -- the longer a lie gets promoted, it becomes the truth after so much time. But I still have questions about this -- I have questions about a lot of things. I just don't think the government listens to us, whether it's Obama or Bill Ritter."
Still, Obama remains at the top of his hit parade.
"Fort Hood put the icing on the cake," Wolf maintains. "I just don't think he cares about the American people. He says positive things about the military, but his actions speak louder than his words. And I don't think that's being addressed the way it should. And not just this issue -- a lot of issues. Whether it's the birth certificate or 9/11 or whatever, the American people aren't getting answers.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to Westword's mission. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Denver's stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
"I think Obama saw what the Bushes got away with, just like the Bushes saw what the Clintons got away with, and thought, 'Let's see what I can get over.' So this is a way of getting people to stop and think about what's going on -- and people out there are a lot smarter than I am when it comes to what questions they should ask. A lot of them have asked questions I've never thought of, and that's great."
This argument won't satisfy critics of the sign, including those who feel the illustrations of Obama are racist throwbacks to centuries past. Wolf shrugs off such objections.
"I can't answer for how they think," he says. "To me, it's just a cartoon. And I see cartoons like those all over the place. I certainly didn't originate that caricature of him."
He did put it on public display, though -- and he's glad to have done so. As he puts it, "I'm just fortunate to be able to put the message out where it can be exposed."