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October 21, 2010 at 11:40 AM

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State DOT regrets yanking Seattle Weekly's "Pork Patty" cover from ferries

Posted by Mike Lindblom

Seattle Weekly's recent issue that depicted Sen. Patty Murray, D-Wash. dressed in raw pork should have traveled aboard two boats instead of being banned, a state spokesman said Thursday.

In hindsight, "We probably shouldn't have pulled it," said Steve Pierce, communications director for the Washington State Department of Transportation, which runs the nation's largest ferry system.

The illustration of Murray, in the Oct. 13-19 edition, was a takeoff on the meat dress worn by singer Lady Gaga on the cover of Vogue Hommes Japan magazine.

The pork image provides some comic relief in a race the conservative National Review calls "one of the least entertaining in the cycle."

The Weekly was banned from its usual position, on a rack alongside advertising brochures on two boats, WSF said. "The concern was, it looks like it was discriminatory to women," said Marta Coursey, ferry communication director.

The article is mostly positive toward Murray, according to Managing Editor Mike Seely. The senator, in a tight re-election race against Republican Dino Rossi, takes pride in steering federal dollars to Washington state. (Her support has helped deliver $1.3 billion in federal grants for Sound Transit's light-rail network since 2003, and a few million to the ferry system.)

Pro-GOP television ads blame Murray for a rising national debt, while Rossi has promised to resist "earmarks' for pet projects nationwide.

Coursey insists WSF had no political agenda. The ferry system's onboard advertising racks do not allow certain material, including tobacco or alcohol ads, and Coursey said the Weekly was allowed in terminal buildings.

"The core issue in this case was our contract for the advertising space and what it spells out as grounds for turning down advertising materials. But if and when a gray area like this comes up again, we will certainly review it against First Amendment principles," she said Thursday.

Seely replies the cover wasn't offensive. "I guess I can see both sides, but their side is incredibly weak, because they didn't get any complaints."

WSF is refunding what Seattle Weekly pays for a week's placement in its ad kiosks, or about $175.

Would it have pulled a male image, say Rossi wearing a loincloth of dollar bills?

Coursey answered: "I hope we don't have that issue."

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Jim Brunner
Covers politics.

Keith Ervin
Covers the Eastside.

Andrew Garber
Covers politics and state government from Olympia.

Emily Heffter
Covers local government.

Mike Lindblom
Covers transportation.

Kyung Song
Covers politics and regional issues from Washington, D.C.

Lynn Thompson
Covers Seattle City Hall.

Bob Young
Covers King County and urban affairs.