Some 9/11 families ask Bush to yank ads
Campaign spots in spotlight
Rita Lasar and Bob McIlvaine, right, who lost relatives on 9/11, and retired firefighter Tom Ryan oppose President Bush's new campaign ads.
CNN's Soledad O'Brien talks with Karen Hughes about criticism of the Bush-Cheney ads.
CNN's John King on how the Bush-Cheney re-election campaign is off and running.
Rep. Tom Cole, R-Oklahoma, says al Qaeda would rejoice if President Bush isn't re-elected.
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NEW YORK (CNN) -- Some relatives of those killed on 9/11 asked President Bush on Friday to pull his new campaign commercials off the air immediately, saying they are outraged over the ads' use of imagery from the 2001 terrorist attacks.
In a news conference organized by the advocacy group September Eleventh Families for Peaceful Tomorrows, two family members of victims and a retired firefighter assailed the president for the ads.
"It upsets me tremendously that Bobby, my son, could be used as a political pawn to be manipulated and at times abused -- it truly makes me sick," said Bob McIlvaine, who lost his 26-year-old son in the World Trade Center attacks.
Added Rita Lasar, who lost a brother on 9/11, "President Bush promised in a speech he gave in 2002 that he would not use the site for political reasons. We believed him; we trusted him. He has broken his promise to us.
"To say that we're outraged is the truth, but it's more than outrage. It's a deep hurt and sorrow that any politician, Democrat or Republican, would seek to gain advantage by using that site."
She added, "We're here today to beg them not to use those ads ... and not make any ads like them."
Retired firefighter Tom Ryan said, "They've deemed it that we're not allowed to see our heroic dead coming back from Iraq, but there, in a commercial to re-elect the president, they're using a dead firefighter to re-elect the president."
The speakers took no position on the presidential race, saying they would not want to see any politician use such imagery in a campaign ad.
Some relatives also complained that Bush is not providing enough cooperation with the independent panel investigating the September 11 attacks.
Once the ads began airing Thursday, they drew the ire of a local firefighters union that backs Sen. John Kerry for president as well as numerous relatives of 9/11 victims.
But some publicly supported the commercials. "It shows you firefighters carrying a brother out, and it shows you the American flag waving over the trade center," said Joe Esposito, a firefighter who lost a brother and a cousin in the attacks. "I have no problem with that."
The ads list a series of challenges that the United States has faced since Bush took office, including the 9/11 attacks, and ends with the tag line "strong leadership in times of change."
Meanwhile, MBNA announced Friday that it would discontinue its "Spirit of America" MasterCard, which features a photograph of three firefighters hoisting the American flag at Ground Zero. A portion of the card's proceeds were donated to 9/11 charities.
"It was not our intention to offend anyone, and we apologize if anyone was offended by the card," MBNA spokesman Jim Donohue said.
Giuliani calls ads 'tasteful'
The Bush campaign defended the ads, saying they're important to show that 9/11 changed America and called for a certain kind of leadership. One aide said the campaign will not back down in the face of criticism.
White House spokesman Scott McClellan, who officially cannot speak for the campaign, said Thursday, "September 11 changed the equation in our public policy. It forever changed our world, and the president's steady leadership is vital to how we wage the war on terrorism."
Former New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani, who led the city through its struggles after the attacks, came out in support of the ads Thursday and repeated his stance Friday on CNN's "American Morning."
"This was done in a very tasteful way. It's an ad about a group of challenges the president has faced -- the recession, other things and September 11, 2001," Giuliani said. "You'd almost not be able to do the ad and talk about the challenges if you couldn't mention the truth."
Bush to meet Mexican leader
Meanwhile, the president is scheduled to meet Friday evening with Mexican President Vicente Fox at his Texas ranch after coming off a campaign swing in California.
Bush campaigned Thursday in the Golden State, insisting his tax cuts have spurred economic growth and telling workers and small business owners that Americans "are feeling confident and optimistic."
"Thirty-four workers here, 50 there, two or three here -- this job base is beginning expand," Bush said. "The economy's strengthening because of the decision-making that is taking place."
On Friday, the Labor Department said that payrolls outside the farm sector grew by 21,000 jobs in February, compared with a downwardly revised gain of 97,000 in January.
The unemployment rate held steady at 5.6 percent, matching January's number.
Economists, on average, had expected 125,000 new jobs and unemployment at 5.6 percent, according to Briefing.com. (Full story)
The presumptive Democratic challenger said Bush has "lost credibility with the American people."
"The only thing steady about this president is his steadily leading our country in the wrong direction," Kerry said in a campaign statement Thursday. "It's time for a change in America, and time to get things back on track."
Kerry campaigned Friday in Louisiana, which holds its primary on Tuesday. (CNN.com's interactive Election Calendar)