NEW YORK – President Bush's re-election campaign on Thursday defended commercials using images from the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, including wreckage of the World Trade Center (search), as appropriate for an election about public policy and the war on terror.
Some families of the victims of the attacks are angry with Bush for airing the spots, which they called in poor taste and for the president's political gain.
"With all due respect, I just completely disagree, and I believe the vast majority of the American people will as well," Karen Hughes (search), a Bush campaign adviser, told "The Early Show" on CBS. "September 11th was not just a distant tragedy. It's a defining event for the future of our country. ... 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 three ads, unveiled Wednesday at campaign headquarters in suburban Washington, will run 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.
"It's a slap in the face of the murders of 3,000 people," Monica Gabrielle, whose husband died in the twin towers, told the New York Daily News for its Thursday editions. "It is unconscionable."
Two of the spots show the destruction at the World Trade Center and include an American flag flying amid the debris. They also feature images of firefighters working through the wreckage.
"It's as sick as people who stole things out of the place," said Firefighter Tommy Fee of Queens Rescue Squad 270. "The image of firefighters at ground zero should not be used for this stuff, for politics."
The ads do not mention Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry, focusing instead on improving Bush's image after criticism by Democrats in recent months.
"I would be less offended if he showed a picture of himself in front of the Statue of Liberty," said Tom Roger, whose daughter perished on American Airlines Flight 11 (search). "But to show the horror of 9/11 in the background, that's just some advertising agency's attempt to grab people by the throat."
Hughes said the ads are a tasteful reminder of what the country has been through the last three years.
"I can understand why some Democrats might not want the American people to remember the great leadership and strength the president and first lady Laura Bush brought to our country in the aftermath of that," she said.