WASHINGTON (AP) — Parents whose children were killed in a Colorado theater shooting on Wednesday demanded a conservative group stop running ads featuring an image of Democratic Sen. Mark Udall visiting a hospital where other victims were recovering.
Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group backed by billionaires Charles and David Koch, included images of Udall and President Barack Obama visiting survivors of the 2012 shooting in Aurora, Colo. The ad's message was about the Democrats' national health care law but included the photograph of the somber politicians.
"The use of an image taken from the president's visit to Colorado to meet with us after our children were killed in the Aurora theater shooting is an utter disgrace. And to insinuate the somber expressions were for anything other than their compassionate response to our heartbreak is beyond unconscionable," the parents of four victims said in a statement. "Americans for Prosperity is exploiting our tragedy for political gain and this ad should be pulled from the air immediately."
Americans for Prosperity edited the online version of the ad to replace the photograph with another one of Obama and Udall, who is running for re-election in November. A spokesman said the new version would be sent to Colorado television stations.
"The image used was an unfortunate oversight which was immediately corrected as soon as it was pointed out," spokesman Levi Russell said.
The group was not backing down from the theme of the ad, which is running for three weeks at a cost of almost $300,000.
"The purpose of the ad is to continue to hold Sen. Udall accountable for turning a blind eye to the more than 300,000 Coloradans whose insurance plans were cancelled due to Obamacare, despite promises from President Obama and Sen. Udall that they could keep them," Russell said.
Udall, a first-term senator, is expected to face Rep. Cory Gardner in November. Gardner, a rising star in Republican circles, was first elected to the House in 2010.
In a statement, Gardner called the use of the picture "insensitive."
"I am glad to hear that it has been taken down," Gardner said.
James Holmes is charged in the July 2012 attack that killed 12 people and injured 70 at a movie theater in Aurora, a Denver suburb. He has pleaded not guilty by reason of insanity. Prosecutors are seeking the death penalty.
Holmes' trial is scheduled to start in October.
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