|The top screen-grab shown on maccnn.com shows a dense crowd comprised of digitally duplicated soldiers. The bottom screen-grab shows the image the Bush ad is now using, showing far fewer soldiers. Click for larger image.
The ad was part of the Bush re-election team's "Whatever it takes" advertising campaign. The ad is being replaced with one that uses the unmanipulated image of the actual crowd.
The Bush campaign characterized the digital manipulation as an "honest mistake."
The ad with digitally altered images was running on the georgewbush.com Web site as well as national TV.
The embarrassing gaffe during the final days of the campaign was first reported on a Web site called maccnn.com.
Joe Lockhart, a key senior advisor for the Kerry/Edwards campaign, said the revelation was no surprise. "The Bush campaign's advertising has been consistently dishonest in what they say," he said. "But today, it's been exposed for being dishonest about what we see."
Mark McKinnon, head of the Bush campaign's Maverick Media ad team, said the original image showing President Bush speaking to soldiers at Ft. Drum had a podium that blocked a handful of soldiers. "We thought the editor was cropping the photo just to the right of the podium and thought that is what we got," he said. "Instead the editor removed [it] and filled in some soldiers."
He denied any attempt to mislead viewers into thinking soldiers were present when they were not.
In the ad with the digitally implanted soldier images, Mr. Bush tells viewers that "I've learned first hand that ordering Americans into battle is the hardest decision, even when it is right. I have returned the salute of wounded soldiers who say they were just doing their job. I have held the children of the fallen. ... I've met with the parents and wives and husbands who have received a folded flag. And in those military families, I have seen the character of a great nation."