The Taco Liberty Bell

On April 1, 1966, I rode the Metro’s Orange Line to my office in Washington, DC.

After sitting down, I 0pened the Washington Post and found a full page ad announcing that Taco Bell has purchased the Liberty Bell from the U.S. Park Service “to help reduce the nation’s debt” and would rename it the “Taco Liberty Bell.”

On Capitol Hill, the announcement set off a tsunami of anger. Congressmen took to the floor of the House and Senate and denounced the action, saying the park service had “sold out America.”  Some demanded immediate investigations.

Angry Americans flooded the Park Service and Taco Bell with calls denouncing the sale.

At the White House press briefing a reporter asked President Clinton’s communications director, Mike McCurry, what he thought about the deal.

“I’ve talked with the President about it and he thinks its a good idea.  We considering selling the Lincoln Memorial to Ford Motor Company and renaming it the Lincoln-Mercury Memorial.”

That set off even more denouncements on Capitol Hill but the faces red with anger were soon replaced with red faces of embarrassment when Taco Bell sent out an announcement at noon that the whole thing was an elaborate April Fool’s joke.

Taco Bell spent $300,000 buying ads in seven newspapers.  The stunt generated an estimated $25 million in free publicity.

McCurry, Clinton’s press secretary figured out the joke and used it to have some fun with Washington’s press corps.  Too many of our elected officials didn’t get the joke. They just got mad.

 

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