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US liberal group sorry for Hitler/Bush comparison
( 2004-01-07 14:03) (Agencies)

A U.S. liberal advocacy group MoveOn.org, often a lightning rod for opposition to the Iraq war, apologized Monday for posting two political messages on the Internet comparing U.S. President Bush to Hitler.

One ad mixed images of Hitler and Nazi militarism with Bush taking the oath of office and equated German war crimes of 1945 with Bush's foreign policy. The other quoted Hitler and Bush as saying they acted in God's name to vanquish their enemies.

After being roundly denounced by Jewish leaders and Republicans, MoveOn.org issued a mea culpa saying the two ads were in poor taste. But the group said they had been displayed in error as part of a contest inviting members of the public to create and send in their own ideas for anti-Bush television spots.

Neither of the two ads was ever aired on TV and by Monday had been removed from the "Bush in 30 Seconds" Web site (www.bushin30seconds.org) set up by the MoveOn.org Voter Fund.

The head of the Voter Fund, Wes Boyd, said his group posted more than 1,500 entries in all submitted by "ordinary Americans" and that the two Hitler spots "slipped through our screening process."

"None of these was our ad, nor did their appearance constitute endorsement or sponsorship by MoveOn.org Voter Fund," Boyd's statement said. "We do not support the sentiment expressed in the two Hitler submissions."

He accused Republican leaders of a "maliciously misleading" attempt to cast the two Hitler ads as sponsored by his group.

Nevertheless, the leaders of three major Jewish groups -- the Anti-Defamation League, the American Jewish Congress and the Simon Wiesenthal Center -- roundly criticized MoveOn for placing the Hitler ads on the Internet.

They and Republican National Committee Chairman Ed Gillespie all seized on MoveOn.org's own pledge in the ground rules for its "Bush in 30 Seconds" contest not to "post anything that would be in inappropriate for television."

"To compare the president of the United States, his fight against al Qaeda and Saddam Hussein, with the politics of Hitler is ... shameful, it is beyond the pale, and has no place in the legitimate discourse of American politics," said Rabbi Marvin Hier, the founder and dean of the Simon Wiesenthal Center.

Hier, Gillespie and other critics of MoveOn also demanded that Democrats seeking the presidential nomination in 2004 should speak out to renounce the Hitler ads.

MoveOn.org said Monday it was going ahead with its contest. It said the winning entry will be picked by a panel of celebrities and political pundits, including comedian Al Franken, documentary filmmaker Michael Moore and Democratic political strategist James Carville.

The winning spot will be announced at a gala event Jan. 12 in New York and will be aired as a paid political commercial during the week of Bush's upcoming State of the Union address.

It is not the first time Bush has been compared to Hitler. In 2002, Germany's Justice Minister, Herta Daeubler-Gmelin, resigned after creating an uproar by likening Bush's saber-rattling over Iraq to Hitler's use of foreign policy to conceal domestic woes.

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