I‘ve lost count of the emails I’ve gotten about Spirit Airlines controversial new ad campaign, which urges travelers to “Check Out The Oil On Our Beaches” — an obvious reference to the tragic BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

I didn’t want to do a “me too” post after every other blog picked up on this (including our friends at Consumerist and Talking Points).

But then I wondered: What were they thinking when they greenlighted that campaign?

There’s no point in rehashing the content of the ad, which has been called everything from insensitive to sexist. I should say that the offer is consistent with past Spirit specials, most of which are too risque to publish on this site.

Late Tuesday, Spirit offered the following clarification:

It is unfortunate that some have misunderstood our intention with today’s beach promotion. We are merely addressing the false perception that we have oil on our beaches, and we are encouraging customers to support Florida and our other beach destinations by continuing to travel to these vacation hot spots.

I emailed Ben Baldanza, Spirit’s chief executive, to see if there was anything he could add. Here’s what he had to say:

We care greatly about our environment and are concerned about the terrible tragedy of this crisis. Yet due to media confusion, it is not clear to many where the oil damage has reached the US shores.

Our ad was simply intended to let people know that South Florida, South Carolina, the Jersey Shore, and the Caribbean (all areas we serve) have beautiful beaches that are not impacted by the BP disaster.

We’ve noted that several other ads have used a similar tactic, including one by the city of Destin, Florida.

I couldn’t find the Destin ad, but note that the city has a page on its site dedicated to the oil spill. Alas, there are no bikini-clad women on it.

Do you think Spirit went too far in its newest campaign? Or is this a legitimate attempt to lure customers back after a devastating strike?

Do Baldanza’s reasons for running this special — to combat media confusion — seem legit to you?

(Photo: arbyreed/Flickr Creative Commons)