Gov. Gary Herbert defends his decision to halt release of ‘crass’ Utah-themed condoms

(Francisco Kjolseth | Tribune file photo via AP) In this March 14, 2019, file photo, Utah Gov. Gary Herbert speaks during an interview on the final day of the legislative session at the Utah state Capitol in Salt Lake City. On Thursday, he explained his decision to recall condoms with what he says were "crass" and offensive labeling that were being distributed by the state.

Utah Gov. Gary Herbert doubled-down Thursday on his decision to halt the release of a series of provocative Utah-themed condoms, which were produced as part of a federally-funded HIV awareness campaign.

Herbert said everyone recognizes the importance of HIV and AIDS prevention, but that there is a right way and a wrong way to engage with the public.

“As I read the sexual innuendos and the double entendres and, kind of, the crass messages on the packages, I thought ‘I don’t know that this is what we want to do as government,’” Herbert said.

The Utah Department of Health ordered 130,000 condoms for the campaign, which featured packaging with labels like “Greatest Sex on Earth," “Put your arch into it,” and “Explore Utah’s caves.” Shortly after the campaign was announced, Herbert ordered state health officials to stop distributing the condoms.

During his monthly televised press conference at PBS Utah on Thursday, Herbert said taxpayer resources should not be used on offensive projects. He singled out one of the condom designs, which showed the letters “SL,UT” — an abbreviation for “Salt Lake, Utah” — over an image of the state.

“The world ‘slut,' in the age of #MeToo, all of us ought to be offended by that,” Herbert said.

Asked about similar condom designs created for other states, Herbert said the Utah series was more offensive than what he had seen elsewhere. And he added that some of the Utah designs may have been deemed appropriate for use, but the series as a whole was not submitted for approval through the proper government channels.

He also dismissed news reports that a Utah Department of Health employee had been fired over the campaign.

“Nobody has lost their job,” Herbert said.