CHARLESTON, W.Va. (AP) — The family of the late Robert C. Byrd lashed out Sunday after the GOP nominee for his U.S. Senate seat used an image from Byrd’s memorial service in a TV ad attacking the Democratic nominee.
The ad by Republican John Raese’s campaign seeks to link President Barack Obama to Gov. Joe Manchin by displaying an image of the two Democrats at the state Capitol ceremony marking Byrd’s June 28 death.
Raese and Manchin are running in a special election for what remains of Byrd’s term. Byrd was history’s longest-serving member of Congress when he died at 92.
The Republican’s campaign manager, Jim Dornan, defended the use of the image.
“That’s a stock photo. We had no idea it was from the memorial service,” he said.
But Byrd’s family called for the campaign to withdraw the ad.
“This is a tasteless and insensitive act by Mr. Raese,” said a statement by the family of Byrd, who was also a Democrat. “His act is insulting to the memory of Robert Byrd and should have no place in a West Virginia political campaign.”
One of Byrd’s two daughters, Marjorie Byrd Moore of Virginia, e-mailed the statement to The Associated Press. She didn’t immediately respond to requests for further comment.
Manchin contacted Moore after getting calls about the ad, Manchin campaign spokeswoman Sara Payne Scarbro said Sunday. Scarbro said the memorial was meant as a bipartisan, nonpolitical tribute.
“To use that photo just truly shows the character of Mr. Raese,” Scarbro said. “It shows what we can expect from Mr. Raese, and that is negative ads and negative campaigning.”
But Dornan dismissed the flap as an attempt to distract from the ad’s overall message: that Manchin would support Obama administration policies if elected, while Raese would not.
Obama lost West Virginia in 2008 and is not considered popular there.