911 Families Disgusted By
Bush Campaign Ads
By Mark Egan

NEW YORK (Reuters) -- Families who lost relatives in the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks voiced outrage on Thursday at President Bush's first ads of his re-election campaign that use images of the devastated World Trade Center to portray him as the right leader for tumultuous times.
"Families are enraged," said Bill Doyle, 57, of New York, who is active in several Sept. 11 family groups. "What I think is distasteful is that the president is trying to use 9/11 as a springboard for his re-election."
"It's entirely wrong. He's had 3,500 deaths on his watch, including Iraq," said Doyle, whose 25-year-old son Joseph died at the trade center.
Long time Bush adviser Karen Hughes defended the four commercials -- which began running on Thursday in at least 16 important battleground states -- as "tastefully done."
"September 11 is not some distant event in the past," Hughes told ABC's "Good Morning America." "All of us feel deeply that tragedy but it's also important to recognize the impact it had on our national public policy."
Two ads refer to the hijacked airliner attacks that killed about 3,000 as the Bush campaign seeks to present him as a leader who rose to the challenge. One ad shows World Trade Center ruins behind an American flag. Another shows firefighters removing the flag-draped remains of a victim.
Ron Willett of Walnut Shade, Missouri, said he was disgusted when he saw the ads. Willett, who lost his 29-year-old son, John Charles, when planes hit the trade center, said he is now so upset, "I would vote for Saddam Hussein before I would vote for Bush."
"I think it is an atrocity," his wife, Lucy, added. "He should not be allowed to use those images at all."
With Republicans holding their political convention in New York in late August, victims said they hope Bush does not make it worse by speaking at the site now known as Ground Zero, which many view as sacred.
"If he does, there will be a protest and it could get ugly," said Doyle.
Several family members said their annoyance stemmed in part from Bush's refusal to testify publicly before the federal commission investigating the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
"The Bush administration will not cooperate fully with the 9/11 commission and at the same time they are trying to invoke and own 9/11 and use it for his re-election," said Stephen Push from the Washington office of "Families September 11th." His wife died on the plane that crashed into the Pentagon that day.
The International Association of Fire Fighters, which has endorsed and campaigned for Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, denounced the spots as "hypocrisy at its worst."
"I'm disappointed but not surprised that the president would try to trade on the heroism of those fire fighters," the union's general president, Harold Schaitberger, said.
U.S. Sen. Frank Lautenberg, a New Jersey Democrat, said the use of the images "demeans and dishonors those who died."
"I urge you to direct your campaign to immediately withdraw these advertisements," Lautenberg wrote in a letter to Bush, adding that elected officials "must maintain standards of dignity and respect that prevent us from exploiting national tragedies for political purposes."
New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg said he had no objections. And not all relatives of victims were upset by the ads.
"I don't have a problem with his pointing to his leadership at that time. He helped us weather it. To me it was a tasteful ad," said Patricia Reilly, who sister Lorraine Lee died in the New York attacks.
- Additional reporting by Larry Fine
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