WASHINGTON — The Bush campaign yanked one of its closing television advertisements Thursday after critics noticed that it contained a doctored photograph, with images of the same uniformed soldiers sprinkled repeatedly into a crowd to enhance the backdrop of a presidential speech.
A Bush campaign spokesman acknowledged the editing of an image in the 60-second Bush ad titled "Whatever It Takes."
The ad, launched Wednesday on national cable channels and posted on the Bush campaign website, shows an excerpt of President Bush's speech at the Republican National Convention.
In it, Bush expresses admiration for sacrifices made by military personnel and their families and promises to protect the nation.
In the 45th second, the ad shifts to an image of a sea of camouflage-clad military personnel who are apparently listening to the president speak at another rally.
As the image comes into focus over the course of about four seconds, a handful of faces of troops can be seen replicated in the crowd.
The visual duplication was pointed out by the left-leaning Web log www.dailykos.com.
The crowd shot, aides said, was taken from a rally at Ft. Drum, N.Y., home of the Army's 10th Mountain Division. Bush campaign spokesman Steve Schmidt said the president and his lectern obstructed part of the crowd in the lower left corner of the original photograph. So the ad makers erased Bush and filled in the empty space with replicated images of soldiers.
"What the photo shows is the president speaking to U.S. military forces -- American soldiers," Schmidt said. "The soldiers are all real."
He said the ad would be pulled and a retooled version distributed this week. The ad was one of Bush's final TV appeals to voters before Tuesday's election.
Democratic Sen. John F. Kerry's campaign ridiculed the doctored photo.
"Now we know why this ad is named 'Whatever it Takes,' " said Kerry campaign advisor Joe Lockhart. "This administration has always had a problem telling the truth, from Iraq to jobs to healthcare.... If they won't tell the truth in an ad, they won't tell the truth about anything else."
Times staff writer Edwin Chen contributed to this report.