‘Bullied’ Geico fires actor who insulted tea partiers

By Daniel Tencer
Wednesday, April 21, 2010 16:30 EDT
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That assertive voice at the end of those “Geico gecko” ads which tells you that “15 minutes can save you 15 percent or more on car insurance” may soon sound a little different.

That’s because car insurer Geico has fired the ads’ voice-over actor after he left a sarcastic and critical message on the phone lines of FreedomWorks, one of the more prominent Tea Party organizations.

In a press release Wednesday, actor Lance Baxter — who goes by the stage name D.C. Douglas and doesn’t do the voice of the iconic “Geico gecko” — said he had been the target of a pressure campaign by FreedomWorks and that the group had effectively “bullied” the car insurer into firing him.

A day after FreedomWorks head Matt Kibbe wrote a column for BigGovernment.com in which he gave out Baxter’s phone number and urged followers to call the actor, “Geico held auditions to replace Mr. Douglas’ voice on the campaign,” the press release asserted.

“Feel free to contact Lance,” Kibbe’s blog posting stated. “He was so kind to provide his number in the voicemail. Call his employer too.”

In the phone message to FreedomWorks, which Baxter says he left March 23, Baxter says: “Hi there, I’m doing a paper about FreedomWorks … and I just have one more piece of information I need to get from you guys. I just need to know what the percentage is of people that are mentally retarded who work for the organization and are members of it.”

Before hanging up, he adds: “I’m wondering what your plans are– how to spin it when one of your members does actually kill somebody. Wondering if you’ve got a PR spinning routine planned for that, or are you just going to take it when it happens.”

(Raw Story has chosen not to link to the audio of the message because it contains Baxter’s phone number.)

Baxter says that, while he doesn’t blame Geico for getting rid of him following the controversy, he does object to what he sees as people being harassed and losing their jobs for their political opinions.

“We can’t let these kinds of tactics become the norm in our country. If we do, then anybody can lose their job just for voicing an opinion,” he said in his statement, adding that he is seeking lawyers to represent him in the matter “pro bono.”

Baxter speculated that Geico was quick to sever its relationship with him because the company is “already on FreedomWorks’ boycott list for pulling their ads from Glenn Beck’s show.”

On his blog, Baxter writes that he was “inundated with calls and hang-ups” after Kibbe wrote about him, “but they died after a day.”

He continued, “Geico made a quick corporate decision to drop me from the campaign ten hours after Matt Kibbe’s blog post appeared. Obviously not because of the magnitude of Matt Kibbe’s self-serving revenge campaign, as it was just a tempest in a teapot (pun intended), but because of the fear that has become synonymous with the Tea Bagger Party: The potential for the wackos of the party to get very loud and dangerous.”

Kibbe’s response to Baxter’s firing, in a BigGovernment article Wednesday, was subdued and barely addressed the controversy.

“Americans covet our freedom of speech,” he wrote. “We have a sacred right, enshrined in the Constitution, to show up, protest and challenge government policies that are bad for America. Freedom: it’s an insurance policy we should all buy.”

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