What MoveOn.org wanted was for people to submit 30-second ads that were critical of President Bush, but what the liberal-leaning organization got was a controversy over one entry that compared Bush to Adolf Hitler (search ).
The ad in question used a tape recording of the Nazi leader speaking while it showed images of Hitler and German military prowess during World War II. At the end of the ad, a photo of Bush raising his hand to take the oath of office is seen.
"A nation warped by lies. Lies fuel fear. Fear fuels aggression. Invasion. Occupation. What were war crimes in 1945 is foreign policy in 2003," the ad said.
Republican groups and Jewish organizations expressed outrage over the ad, which has been removed from the MoveOn.org Web site. The Republican National Committee (search) called on all nine Democratic candidates to condemn the ads.
RNC Chairman Ed Gillespie (search) called the ad, "the worst and most vile form of political hate speech."
MoveOn.org is "using the memory of that genocide as a political prop," American Jewish Congress President Jack Rosen (search) wrote in the Wall Street Journal on Monday, referring to the Holocaust.
"President Bush has shown us leadership in Iraq, and our troops have liberated a people who were oppressed by another murderous dictator … comparing the commander-in-chief of a democratic nation to the murderous tyrant Hitler is not only historically specious, it is morally outrageous," Rosen continued.
MoveOn.org spokesman Trevor Fitzgibbon said, "we had no idea the Hitler thing even existed."
The group, which claims to have a network of about 2 million online activists, said that the ad comparing Bush to Hitler was one of the 1,512 submissions from the general public submitted as part of a campaign called Bushin30seconds.com.
MoveOn.org claims the ad was not submitted by an organization and was ultimately removed from the Web site. MoveOn.org noted that the "Hitler" comparison was not among the 15 finalists that are now viewable on the Web.
MoveOn.org released a statement on Monday, saying neither that ad nor another one portraying Hitler and Bush was their ad, "nor did their appearance constitute endorsement or sponsorship by MoveOn.org Voter Fund. They will not appear on TV. We do not support the sentiment expressed in the two Hitler submissions."
MoveOn.org noted that those ads were voted down by the group's members and the public, who submitted nearly 3 million critiques while choosing the 15 finalist entries.
"We agree that the two ads in question were in poor taste and deeply regret that they slipped through our screening process," the statement said. "In the future, if we publish or broadcast raw material, we will create a more effective filtering system."
The group argued that the RNC is making this an issue and it should not be held responsible for what was submitted to their contest by a private citizen, particularly since MoveOn.org itself apparently disavowed the ad.
Gillespie told Fox News that MoveOn.org will spend more than $1 million a day to support Bush's defeat in November and he said that the organization planned to spend $7 million to air whatever ad wins the organization's contest.
"That's the kind of tactics we're seeing on the left today in support of these Democratic presidential candidates," Gillespie said.
A panel of celebrity judges like actor Jack Black, Hollywood director Michael Moore, Democratic strategist Donna Brazile, director and author Gus Van Sant, musician Michael Stipe, comedienne Margaret Cho, actress Janeane Garofalo and musician Moby are supposed to pick the best entries.
MoveOn.org announced the finalists Monday afternoon. With over 2.9 million votes cast, the group said the final ads "perfectly capture the grassroots approach to politics we're pioneering together."
Bush in 30 Seconds Live, an awards show to celebrate the ads and announce the winner, will be held in the New York area Jan. 12.
Fox News' Carl Cameron and Liza Porteus contributed to this report.