Billboard company pulls controversial ads from SF mayoral candidate

The company that owns several billboard locations around the Bay Area, has removed three controversial ads paid for by San Francisco mayoral candidate Ellen Lee Zhou. 

Many city leaders and community leaders called the ads racist, sexist, and offensive. But despite the criticism, Zhou refused to take down her billboards.

"This is a campaign ad," Zhou said Monday morning while standing on the street corner near her billboard on a side street off Harrison between 9th and 10th streets. "It's called freedom of speech. This is America." 

In response to the controversy, Outfront Media which owns the billboard space, decided to remove three of the campaign ads saying the company "reserves the right to remove advertising copy that is considered offensive to community standards. We have notified the campaign that we have removed this ad." 

Zhou, a Republican running for mayor in the left-leaning city against incumbent London Breed, takes issue with the homelessness and drugs that run rampant in the city. She attacked Breed for raking in what she says is a large salary and doing nothing to stop these problems. Her argument meandered when asked about human trafficking and her record on what she's done to solve these issues. 

One of the billboards that was removed depicted a cartoon of a woman kicking back at a desk, with a cigarette and wad of cash in her hand. The billboard also said, “Stop slavery and human trafficking in San Francisco,” with the image of a child appearing to be kidnapped. Zhou confirmed in the interview that the woman is Breed.

"This is very upsetting," said former San Francisco Board of Supervisor Malia Cohen. Far too often, Cohen said, "African-American women are oversexualized" and far too often, Blacks of both genders are seen holding stacks of money and spending it frivolously." 

Breed said that the billboard speaks for itself. 

"My policies can be criticized," Breed said, "without making them personal.