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Arthur Frommer’s Blog Causes Commotion

Arizona-boycott blog post stirs up a hornet’s nest

Aug 26, 2009

Arthur Frommer, whose travel guidebook series changed the way we see the world, has stirred up a hornet’s nest with his blog post that criticized the state of Arizona and threatened a personal boycott.

Frommer’s pique was prompted by armed protesters outside the Phoenix Convention Center on Aug. 17, when President Obama spoke at the Veterans of Foreign Wars convention. One protester, who identified himself only as Chris (pictured), carried an AR-15 semiautomatic assault rifle and a pistol. Arizona allows firearms to be carried openly.

Frommer, whose groundbreaking guidebook “Europe on $5 a Day” was released in 1957, wrote last week on his blog, “I am shocked beyond measure by reports that . . . nearly a dozen persons, including one with an assault rifle strapped about his shoulders and others with pistols in their hands or holsters, were openly congregating outside a hall at which President Obama was speaking.”

Frommer then wrote, “I will not personally travel in a state where civilians carry loaded weapons onto the sidewalks and as a means of political protest.”
He said he was not advocating that everyone boycott Arizona.

The blog received more than 1,100 comments, many disputing his views.
One respondent, who called himself VacaDuck, wrote, “It’s . . . amazing to see that a respected travel guide writer such as yourself will write off a destination merely because of fear of an inanimate object. Yet you are willing to write guides for such places as China, where political dissent and free speech will lead to your arrest and execution.”

But Frommer also had his supporters.

“He said nothing of the general gun laws, but rather the ability to bring guns to a political rally where their primary function is to intimidate and infringe on others’ most sacred right to free speech,” a respondent named Settembrini wrote. “Anyone who would react to this opinion by telling the declarant to ’stick to travel’ has the same lack of respect for free speech as the gun-carrying intimidators.”

Sherry Henry, director of the Arizona Office of Tourism, said in a statement that it was “unfortunate” that Frommer allowed “his personal and political feelings to become a rallying cry against Arizona tourism.”

Acknowledging that Frommer was entitled to his opinion, Henry also noted that gun-ownership laws had “nothing to do with tourism in Arizona.”

“There are 10 other states that have similar gun laws to Arizona, and to be singled out by Mr. Frommer is unfair and unfortunate,” she said. “Comments like Mr. Frommer’s do not affect gun owners or gun-ownership laws. They affect the housekeepers, restaurant workers, hotel clerks, tour operators and thousands of others at hotels, restaurants and attractions around the state that rely on the tourism industry.”

Henry’s statement also noted that she spoke with Frommer and expressed “disappointment” and “reminded him that the tourism industry in Arizona has supported the Frommer’s publications for years.”

Wiley Publishing, which publishes the guides, on Monday distanced itself from Frommer’s opinion. “We have a great deal of respect for our publishing partner, Arthur Frommer, who is not a Wiley employee,” the statement said. “Mr. Frommer’s posting does not represent an official point of view held by Wiley or the writers and editors who create the Frommer’s Travel Guides. As a company we remain neutral because we respect our rights as individuals to have varying opinions.

“Wiley values the good citizens of Arizona, many of whom are our customers, authors, and partners.”

In response to his detractors, Frommer wrote an essay in which he said the Phoenix police were “cowed” by the gunmen.

“To permit gunmen to converge on a political rally presents a ‘clear and present danger’ of public disorder, violence and death,” he wrote. “It takes only a split second’s pressure on the trigger of an assault weapon to kill dozens of people, and yet the Phoenix police, in a situation fraught with danger and at a fever pitch, marked by inflammatory signs and accusations, stood by timidly while a hothead brandished a loaded assault rifle and eleven others brandished loaded handguns.

“In a phone conversation, I advised the mayor of Phoenix that in light of the apparent policy of the Phoenix police department to do nothing in these situations to protect the visitor, that I personally would not visit Phoenix.”
He said he would change his mind, however, if “his police will disarm gunmen seeking to intimidate persons engaged in political activity.”

Scott Phelps, the director of communications for Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon, said in a phone interview Tuesday that the gunman was trying to attract media attention and that Frommer “took the bait.”

“Phoenix is one of the safest cities in the country,” Phelps said. “In fact, the mayor just got back yesterday from D.C. where he was invited by the White House and the Justice Department to talk about best practices of the Phoenix police.

“Phoenix police were being completely professional. . . . The guy was just trying to make a political point through a media stunt. He honestly didn’t break any laws. This was the police department protecting the safety of the community, which was never at risk. Again, there were a thousand people there expressing their opinions legally and lawfully and . . . one guy who wanted to get on TV and he did. Phoenix protected everyone’s rights.”

The Arizona Republic newspaper on Tuesday said, “Of course, if he were to stop traveling to states where people have guns, his next travel book would be ‘Arthur Frommer’s Kitchen on $5 a Day.”

Arizona-boycott blog post stirs up a hornet’s nest
Image via Jack Kurtz / Arizona Republic


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