9-11 Victim's Kin Angered by Bush Ads
by Liz Sidoti
Thursday, Mar 4, 2004
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WASHINGTON - Relatives of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks and a firefighters union said Thursday they're angry that President Bush (news - web sites)'s new campaign ads include images of the destroyed World Trade Center and firefighters carrying a flag-draped stretcher through the rubble.
They say the ads are in poor taste and accuse Bush of exploiting the attacks. Bush's campaign defended the commercials as appropriate for an election about public policy and the war on terror, saying they were a tasteful reminder of what the country has been through the last three years. The campaign had said in the past that it would not use the attacks for political gain.
"It makes me sick," Colleen Kelly, who lost her brother Bill Kelly Jr., in the attacks and leads a victims families group called Peaceful Tomorrows, said Thursday. "Would you ever go to someone's grave site and use that as an instrument of politics? That truly is what Ground Zero represents to me."
"September 11th was not just a distant tragedy. It's a defining event for the future of our country," Karen Hughes, a Bush campaign adviser, told "The Early Show" on CBS on Thursday. "Obviously, all of us mourn and grieve for the victims of that terrible day, but September 11 fundamentally changed our public policy in many important ways, and I think it's vital that the next president recognize that."
The first ads started running Thursday on broadcast channels in about 80 markets in 18 states, most of which are expected to be critical to the election, and nationwide on select cable networks. The ads do not mention Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, focusing instead on improving Bush's image after criticism by Democrats in recent months. Bush is expected to spend a large part of his $100 million war chest on ads.
One of the ads shows the charred wreckage of the twin towers with a flag flying amid the debris. Another ad and a Spanish-language version of it use that image as well alongside firefighters carrying a flag-draped stretcher through the rubble as sirens are heard. Firefighters are shown in all the ads.
Harold Schaitberger, president of the International Association of Fire Fighters, on Thursday called the ads disgraceful and said they should be pulled.
"We're not going to stand for him to put his arm around one of our members on top of a pile of rubble at Ground Zero during a tragedy and then stand by and watch him cut money for first responders," Schaitberger said. He said his union is politically independent even though it endorsed Kerry and has donated money to Republicans.
Barbara Minervino, a Republican from Middletown, N.J., who lost her husband, Louis, in the attacks, questioned whether Bush was "capitalizing on the event."
David Potorti, an independent from Cary, N.C., whose brother Jim died in the north tower, called the campaign's use of the images audacious.
"It's an insult to use the place where my brother died in an ad," Potorti said. "I would be just as outraged if any politician did this."
Until Bush cooperates with the federal commission that is investigating the nation's preparedness before the attacks and its response "by testifying in public under oath ... he should not be using 9/11 as political propaganda," said Kristen Breitweiser, of Middletown Township, N.J., whose husband, Ronald Breitweiser, 39, died in the World Trade Center.
"Three thousand people were murdered on President Bush's watch," Breitweiser said. "He has not cooperated with the investigation to find out why that happened."