The Metropolitan Transportation Authority on Tuesday removed a set of ads featuring Nazi and Imperial Japanese insignia from New York City subway cars after the campaign prompted criticism on social media and the state governor asked the agency to remove the displays.
Adam Lisberg, a spokesperson for the MTA, told BuzzFeed News the shuttle train with a wrapped ad promoting Man in the High Castle was removed from service Tuesday after rush hour so that the ad could be removed.
Lisberg added that the ad was pulled after New York's governor called the agency.
"Please note that this afternoon, Gov. Andrew Cuomo called the head of the MTA and asked him to ensure the ads came down," Lisberg said.
An MTA representative said earlier Tuesday that Amazon had pulled the ad campaign, but an Amazon Studios spokesperson later told BuzzFeed News the company did not ask for the removal of the promotion.
Amazon's subway ad campaign for the Man in the High Castle was launched on Nov. 16 and was due to run until Dec. 14.
On Monday, people took to Twitter to point out that the MTA's 42nd Street shuttle was covered in Nazi and Imperial Japan insignia to promote The Man in the High Castle.
The show is based on Philip K. Dick's novel of the same name and imagines a future in which the Axis Powers won World War II.
Trains that run from Grand Central to Times Square were covered with 260 posters made to look like American flags influenced by Nazi Germany and Imperial Japanese designs.
The ads do not contain any swastikas. Instead, the posters include the Nazi Reichsadler eagle with what looks like a cross emblem in a wreath.
On Monday, subway riders expressed confusion about the advertising:
In April, the MTA announced new rules that prohibit political advertisements on the subway in response to a federal judge's ruling that the agency must run an ad from a pro-Israel group.
The policy allows the MTA to avoid being obligated to run ads that might be considered hate speech but could be defended on First Amendment grounds.
The MTA said in April the new rules were meant to maintain “a safe and welcoming environment for all MTA employees and customers.”
The MTA's Ortiz told BuzzFeed News on Monday that the Amazon campaign met the revised standards.
"The ads do not violate our content-neutral ad standards," Ortiz said.
Ortiz said the agency does not disclose how much it is paid for individual campaigns. The MTA makes as much as $130 million annually in advertising revenue, New York's PIX 11 reported.
A spokesperson for the New York branch of the Anti-Defamation League, an NGO that monitors anti-Semitism, called the ads exploitative and insensitive.
“Our concern is that the Nazi imagery that is being used as part of this ad campaign comes without any context," Evan Bernstein said in a statement to BuzzFeed News. "On the train, seeing the American flag paired with a Nazi symbol is viscerally offensive, because there is no context as to what it means. The fact that the flag is spread across the seats only compounds the effect."
The MTA reportedly rejected ads in October made by Thinx, which sells menstruation underwear, that were deemed too racy for the subway. The ads were later approved after a major pushback from people on social media.
Many people online compared the two situations, asking how the period-related ads could be deemed unacceptable, while Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan symbolism is allowed.
Michelle Broder Van Dyke is a breaking news reporter for BuzzFeed News and is based in Honolulu.
Contact Michelle Broder Van Dyke at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Got a confidential tip? Submit it here.