US President Barack Obama speaks alongside Colorado Senator Mark Udall and Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper (R) at the University of Colorado Hospital in Aurora, Colorado, July 22, 2012.
Saul Loeb/Getty

The line even the Kochs’ AFP can’t cross

Four years ago, then-Gov. Joe Manchin (D) was running for the Senate in his home state of West Virginia, where President Obama wasn’t especially popular. Republicans thought they’d have a better shot against the popular governor if they tied him to the man in the Oval Office. That proved to be a tricky task.
The GOP could apparently only find one photo of Manchin and Obama together, so they quickly inserted it into an attack ad. But there was a problem: the image was from the late Sen. Robert Byrd’s memorial service. The Byrd family condemned the cheap shot, insisting there must still be some lines of decency, even in contemporary politics, after someone dies.
Four years later, it’s a lesson the Koch brothers’ American for Prosperity temporarily forgot.
President Obama and Colorado Sen. Mark Udall stand together looking dismayed in Americans For Prosperity’s latest ad attacking Udall over his vote for Obamacare.
There’s a reason for that, though a viewer wouldn’t guess it from the picture AFP, an outside group funded by the Kochs, uses in the ad. The image is from a July 2012 appearance Obama made with Udall, Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper, and other state officials at a hospital treating victims of the July 20, 2012, Aurora movie theater shooting.
In the attack ad AFP subsequently pulled, viewers were shown Obama and Udall, side by side, looking heartbroken, as if the Affordable Care Act had left them depressed. The truth was more gut-wrenching: the president and senator were speaking from a hospital in the wake of a mass murder.
AFP simply edited out the parts of the image that might have provided context.
Victims’ families were not pleased, calling the AFP’s attack ad, among other things, an “utter disgrace.”
In recent months, we’ve grown accustomed to AFP airing ads that struggle when subjected to even casual fact-checking, but yesterday, the conservative group broke new ground.
Within a few hours of BuzzFeed discovering what AFP had done, the group wisely pulled the ad and issued a statement saying, “The image used was an unfortunate oversight which was immediately corrected as soon as it was pointed out.”
On Twitter, AFP Colorado apologized to Aurora families.
Rep. Cory Gardner, Udall’s Republican challenger and the candidate who was apparently the intended beneficiary of the attack ad, told the Denver Post that his campaign has “nothing to do with the creation of outside advertisements,” but added, “[T]he use of this picture was insensitive and wrong, and I am glad to hear that it has been taken down.”
As for AFP, who clearly made the right call by backing off, it’s heartening to know the group is still capable of shame when it comes to its attack ads.