HOUSTON—Kathryn Falk’s fame and fortune both were built on the foundation of free speech.
As an author and publisher, she’s somewhat famous in the world of romance novels. She proudly displays framed articles from newspapers touting her expertise in the field and she’s the publisher of a magazine dedicated to women’s literature. She talks about owning homes in four countries and how she discovered Fabio, the male model whose visage once decorated the covers of romance books.
Still, something she saw at Hobby Airport this week made her wonder about the First Amendment.
“Freedom of speech, but not in an airport like Houston Hobby, not in the fourth largest city,” she said.
What upset her was a photograph of President Barack Obama bearing a mustache that made him look like Adolph Hitler.
“It was just terrible,” she said.
Followers of Lyndon LaRouche, the conspiracy theorist and perennial presidential candidate, have been displaying the doctored photo for months now on posters calling for the president’s impeachment. Sometimes, they display signs calling President Obama a killer.
Once in a while, bystanders get angry. An 80-year-old woman in Connecticut was arrested last week after tearing down Obama-Hitler signs displayed outside a post office.
And then, there’s Falk, who got so upset she argued with the LaRouche follower displaying the sign, took her picture and complained to airport personnel.
“I did call her a few names,” she said. “Some aren’t printable. Sick was probably the nicest thing I called her.”
An airport worker told her she should call the mayor’s office, she said, but whoever she talked with at City Hall told her the posters were perfectly legal forms of free speech.
“We may disagree with what some may want to express, but the right to express it is constitutionally protected,” said Mario Diaz, Houston’s aviation director, in an email.
This is just the latest recent incident in Houston highlighting the passions surrounding this presidential election. Last week, a Southampton area homeowner, upset about a wave of campaign sign thefts, posted a warning in his front yard, threatening to donate $1000 to the Obama campaign the next time somebody stole his sign.
Then earlier this week, vandals dressed in devil masks were caught on surveillance cameras as they splashed red paint across a mural of President Obama outside The Breakfast Klub, a popular midtown restaurant.
“Here we have the people that committed this evil act get out of their vehicle and mask their face with a demon,” said Marcus Davis, the restaurant’s owner. “And I just thought that that was ironic. So who’s the real demon and who’s the real devil?”