Minority groups called on Republican Senate candidate Peter Coors (search) to apologize Wednesday after a spokeswoman said it would be worse to be compared to Sen. John Kerry than to a convicted killer.

The dispute arose last week when an appeals court upheld the conviction of a reputed Ku Klux Klansman in the murder of a black man.

The New York Times mistakenly used a photo of Coors with a story about the ruling. Asked about the error, Coors campaign spokeswoman Cinamon Watson said: "It could have been worse. Pete could have been identified as John Kerry (search)."

The Rev. James Peters, spokesman for the Greater Metro Denver Ministerial Alliance, said the remark was insensitive.

"If Peter Coors or Ms. Watson thinks it is funny or lighthearted to compare Sen. Kerry to a convicted KKK murderer, then they are either willfully ignorant of the emotion African-Americans feel about such matters, or they are terribly out of touch and they should be ashamed," Peters said.

Watson said her remarks were not meant to offend anyone. "It's unfortunate that this has taken away attention from the real issues of our campaign," she said.