- The Washington Times - Sunday, December 5, 2004

LOS ANGELES (AP) — County health officials are having trouble finding a TV station willing to air a public service announcement about syphilis that employs a lumpy, red cartoon character named “Phil the Sore.”

Los Angeles-area broadcasters said the ad is in poor taste, but the county health agency said it is simply trying to reach homosexual men — the group at greatest risk of catching the sexually transmitted disease, which has been on the rise in recent years.

The 30-second ad shows two men going home together. None of the five Los Angeles-area TV stations that were approached has run the ad.

KCBS spokesman Mike Nelson said he was troubled that the ad took such a lighthearted tone about a serious disease. At KNBC, spokeswoman Erin Dittman said her station rejected a request to run the spot during prime time’s “Will & Grace,” but would run it after midnight.

Los Angeles County public health director Dr. Jonathan Fielding said he found the TV stations’ stance distressing. “Would I show it to a 4- to 5-year-old? No. But do I think it’s appropriate for an adult audience? Yes, I do,” Dr. Fielding said.

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