Aurora Theater Shooting Victims Outraged Over Attack Ad

CREDIT: Screenshot of AFP ad

Koch-backed group Americans For Prosperity’s attempt to attack Sen. Mark Udall (D-CO) backfired Wednesday, after it was revealed that the group used a photograph of the senator with President Obama in the aftermath of the Aurora movie theater shooting in July 2012.

The ad was part of AFP’s multi-million dollar onslaught of anti-Obamacare ads against Democrats in competitive races. Using footage of the candidate standing next to or shaking hands with the president is a common tactic. But this particular photo was taken while Obama, Udall, and Gov. John Hickenlooper (whom AFP cropped out) were visiting victims and their families at the Children’s Hospital in Aurora.

AFP retracted the ad after families of four shooting victims condemned the group for “exploiting our tragedy for political gain.”

“The use of an image taken from the President’s visit to Colorado to meet with us after our children were killed in the Aurora Theater shooting is an utter disgrace,” the families wrote in a statement. “And to insinuate the somber expressions were for anything other than their compassionate response to our heartbreak is beyond unconscionable. Americans for Prosperity is exploiting our tragedy for political gain and this ad should be pulled from the air immediately. We hope Colorado television stations will exercise sound judgment and not air this ad until AFP removes the image.”

“They took a picture showing great compassion for the parents and people of that shooting and made it twisted,” Sandy Phillips, the mother of shooting victim Jessica Ghawi, told the Denver Post.

AFP Colorado tweeted, “AFP regrets erroneously using the image; and we sincerely apologize to Aurora families.” The group reportedly spent $280,000 to run the ad for three weeks.

Udall’s campaign called on his opponent, Tea Party favorite Rep. Cory Gardner, to denounce the ad. “As someone who attended an Aurora memorial alongside Senator Udall, Gardner surely has the decency to publicly condemn the Koch brothers for this cynical ad,” campaign manager Adam Dunstone said in his statement. “Congressman Cory Gardner should do the right thing by demanding his friends and allies stop using the Aurora tragedy for political gain.” Gardner called the ad “insensitive and wrong” but asserted that “our campaigns have nothing to do with the creation of outside advertisements.”