SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Democratic Sen. Tom Daschle is defending a campaign television ad that features footage of him hugging President Bush.
During a news conference Wednesday, Daschle, who faces a challenge for his Senate seat from Republican John Thune, said the ad was designed to show the need for bipartisan leadership during times of crisis.
The hug is part of a two-second clip in a 30-second spot that also includes vignettes with congressional leaders, Daschle said.
The embrace occurred just after the president had addressed the nation in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, said Daschle, who was Senate majority leader at the time.
"This was a time to show unity," said Daschle. "There was nothing contrived about that hug."
On Tuesday, the Republican National Committee wrote a letter calling on Daschle to pull the ad.
"As you are no doubt aware, President Bush has not indicated any support for your campaign, and in fact has endorsed your opponent, John Thune. The implication from your advertisement that President Bush supports you is false and misleading," the letter said.
Daschle said the ad was designed to show that there are times when the nation's leaders need to show emotion in a public way.
"The country saw leadership at its best," he said.