BART Says It Was Forced To Run Ad From Group Denying Holocaust

Matt Bigler
September 13, 2018 - 2:12 pm

The seeminngly innocuous phrase “History Matters” has stirred up a controversy because of the anti-Semitic views of the group paying to use the words in ads in BART stations. 

The Institute for Historical Review, a group that denies the Holocaust killed more than 6 million Jews, paid to have the digital ads start running on Labor Day at the Powell and Montgomery stations. The institute has been labeled a hate group with waning influence by the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremists. 

“I’m Jewish, and so this is very disappointing and troubling,” said BART director Bevan Dufty. Although transit officials object to the institute's message, they were powerless to reject the ad, according to Dufty.

Court decisions have determined that it would violate the First Amendment to single out specific groups or messages when considering who can buy advertising space. 

A contentious lawsuit would drain money and resources away from BART that would be better spent on cleaning stations and ensuring public safety, Dufty added. 

Still, Dufty will call for BART to draft a policy that curbs all issue-oriented advertising on the regional transit network. He lamented that the times have become so polarizing, and said the Bay Area is a tempting location for outside groups to try to provoke hatred and grab headlines.

The controversy is more bad press for the troubled transit agency, after a string of violence and a fresh privacy scandal. The ads cost $6,000 and will run through the end of the month.