BBC Home
Explore the BBC
BBC News
Launch consoleBBC NEWS CHANNEL
Last Updated: Monday, 8 March, 2004, 15:54 GMT
Was Bush right to use 9/11 images in ads?
Excerpt from Bush campaign ad

Relatives of the victims of the 9/11 terror attacks have criticised the use of images in television advertisements for President Bush's re-election campaign.

Some victims' relatives have complained that the images exploit those killed in the attacks and are in poor taste.

The advertisements include images of firefighters carrying a body draped in a US flag from the rubble at Ground Zero where the World Trade Centre once stood.

However, President Bush's campaign team has defended the commercials as being "very tasteful".

Was President Bush right to use 9/11 images in his campaign?

This debate is now closed. Read a selection of your comments below.

The following comments reflect the balance of opinion we have received so far:

Saying that the Bush ads exploit the victims of 9/11 is a bit like saying that a Democratic ad featuring the poor and homeless exploits the poor and homeless. The claim doesn't make any sense whatsoever.
Jeff Rupprecht, St Paul, USA

Several 9/11 victim families have signed a letter supporting Bush's use of 9/11 in his ads. Another sign of how politically divided America is.
Nate, Wichita USA

No. Many people who lost their life in WTC were Democrat voters - using their death for Republican vote its a dirty trick.
Henry, Barrow

Why should he not use the images, images of a very significant part of American History - and more to the point, a necessary reminder of what some peoples objectives still are!
Maurice, Newcastle, England

It's ironic that Bin Laden similarly used images of atrocities perpetrated by Western nations to gain support.
Stephen, New Zealand

The images should be re-used when necessary to remind us of the threat we are all under from terrorism
Rachel Roberts, Darlington

These people lost their lives defending their fellow countrymen from a terror attack and the images should be re-used when necessary to remind us of the threat we are all under from terrorism and of the sacrifices some people willingly made for this cause, not for President Bush's personal gain.
Rachel Roberts, Darlington, UK

Yes, I believe he was right to use the images, after all, the event did take place under his watch, and he is the one who has had to make the big choices, rightly or wrongly! Whether or not you agree with his politics, it did happen whilst he was in charge. Whether using the images was in good taste, well, that's a matter of opinion, and there are as many opinions as there are human beings!
Pete, Bristol England

Mr Bush is risking his presidency by doing so. He should be concentrating in his achievements during all these years.
Suraj Chhetri, Kathmandu, Nepal

I see nothing wrong with Bush using 9/11 images in his ads. It was a horrific incident that was handled relatively well. I shudder to think how the other candidate for presidency would have done, Al Gore. Bush got the job done, so why should he not be allowed to show what he's battled through?
Greg, Canada

Winston Churchill is constantly associated with WW2 - so why shouldn't George Bush be associated with the war on terrorism. I bet if Winston was fighting a campaign today, he wouldn't hesitate to refer back to the success of WW2.
James, Dorset, UK

I've read that many firefighters feel the same way
Betty, New York

A friend of mine lost a brother in 9/11 and said she was sickened that his death is being used to sell a candidate. I've read that many firefighters feel the same way. If the President is so concerned about 9/11, why is he refusing to talk to the commission set up to investigate it? We need the truth, not campaign ads.
Betty, New York, USA

He is free to use the images, and we are free to make our own judgements of him, which are that he is insensitive. He is a bad actor working with a bad script.
Sam, Portland, USA

This event is central to the changes taking place in America today
MJ Bonar, Jacksonville

Yes. This event is central to the changes taking place in America today; we no longer can assume we will not be attacked, by other cultures, on our own soil. He is the leader who valiantly works, daily, to lead us to restored and renewed peace. This is a valid part of his legacy. Those who wish to continually re-write history as though specific events did not happen might like to pretend that this did not affect America, but it surely did. He has met this challenge with great courage and integrity. He has not only a right but an obligation to review the challenges and contributions of the first of his two terms in office.
MJ Bonar, Jacksonville, FL

Seven months to go and already people have full-blown election fever. It's going to be a long hot summer of scratching and biting.
Dominic, UK

But images of people suffering in other parts of the world are used by many actors to drum up support. Is it that because it is Americans in pain that it becomes painful? I am thinking of the way images of the 1998 bomb attack in Kenya have been used in the US, even when the US media avoided using the 9/11 images!
Danny, Nairobi, Kenya

Perhaps it will remind people how his administration ignored the warnings of such terrorist acts
Francis B Banks, Nassau

I for one am glad that he has opened the topic of 9/11 to public scrutiny. Let him reap the whirlwind! Perhaps it will remind people how his administration ignored the warnings of such terrorist acts and failed to respond in a timely fashion as 9/11 unfolded. I am reminded of Nero fiddling while Rome burned! The fact is that 9/11 happened on Bush's watch.
Francis B Banks, Nassau, Bahamas

Shame on the president! Let's not forget that he went into hiding, and it was only the then brave mayor of New York City who dared to provide information and comfort.
Rex, New York

Distasteful and hypocritical. As I remember he and Cheney were helicoptered around to secure hideout locations for several days and we didn't even hear from them for quite a while!
Catherine, Williamstown, MA USA

I think that this another example of Mr Bush's lack of taste and sensitivity To exploit the pain and anguish of the victims and their families is unforgivable and in my humble opinion this will harm is already fading popularity with the average American person.
Carol Alderson, Douglas, USA

No. This is distasteful and cheap. All his politics based on keeping the American people scared of terror and make himself appear as a saviour.
Yaqoob Abdulaziz, Mississauga, Canada.

It is indeed distasteful. While Bush may have kept the Nation going after the attacks, many do believe he has taken advantage of this situation and misused his powers to curtail Human Rights and start an illegal war in Iraq. Why not talk of any other achievements? Politics indeed is a nasty game.
Arif Sayed, Dubai, UAE

What I remember is Giuliani being the face and voice of reason and strength
Sarah, Seattle

Mention 9/11? Fine. Using soft, nostalgic, emotional music backdropping images (upsetting to many) for political gain? No. And I don't recall him being such a pillar of strength. What I remember is Giuliani being the face and voice of reason and strength. Then Bush went out and started a war, fighting fire with fire. And he should be proud of this - why?
Sarah, Seattle, USA

No. How can the world (and especially the people that vote for US president) forget? I don't see why the images need to be used.
Bama, Tennessee, USA

Although 9/11 happened during his presidency, using the images for personal gain is just wrong and insensitive. He will try anything in his war for re-election. He will not get my vote come November.
Lynne, Sonora, CA, USA

So I guess Bush is not allowed to mention his response to 9/11? It's the major part of his record, but Dems want to shut down the issue... because they know it will get him re-elected.
Fred, Texas

The freedom of speech is for everybody, not only those who hate Bush
Ed, New York

If split second glimpse of WTC images is causing such an outrage among Bush bashers, why did not they say anything against all the networks that were displaying for many hours those images in the days following 9/11? The freedom of speech is for everybody, not only those who hate Bush.
Ed, New York, USA

From what I have seen, the real heroes on 9/11 were the firefighters; President Bush just used 9/11 as a reason to start war against "evil". I don't think he has any right of using those images, especially not for his re-election campaign.
Wendy Gillisjans, Ternat, Belgium

He did play a pivotal role, but I don't want to see death and destruction in one of his ads when I know he is using it to get votes
Christopher O'Connor, New York
I think it's fair for Bush to bring up 9/11, but using certain images that were used is unnecessary. Yes he did play a pivotal role, but I don't want to see death and destruction in one of his ads when I know he is using it to get votes. But then again, this is the same president that said "Bring it on" to our enemies.
Christopher O'Connor, New York

I don't think what the Bush campaign is doing is right. It's not right to take profit over such a huge tragedy. GO Kerry!!
Sean Pandey, Kansas City, KC

9/11 happened within Bush's time in office why can't he highlight this point. After all Kerry uses his status as a Vietnam veteran - could this not been seen as exploiting the dead too?
John Lane, Bristol, UK

Bush only came to New York ONE time after 9/11 and that was to pick up a cool 20 Million for his campaign, he was here for 45 minutes. He has no right to use those images for his own benefit.
Jennifer, New York City, NY

I don't know why so many people agree with the use of 9/11 images in ads. Let's view this another way, if a closest member of your family died in the 9/11 attack, few years on though you find it extremely difficult to move on, you try your best. Now you realise the death of your closest family member is being exploited and used as a political campaign for self interest. Do you think you still agree to what Bush is doing? Don't you think the victim's relative have the most important and final say?
Andy, London

The message is simple, fear, fear, terrorism, fear - ignore your common sense and vote Republican!
John, Washington DC
"Right," as in morally positive, is irrelevant. These tactics are the only option Bush has. He must divert attention away from the lies, the economy, increasing global isolation, and the unwinnable quagmire in Iraq. The message is simple, fear, fear, terrorism, fear - ignore your common sense and vote Republican!
John, Washington DC

Of course it's wrong! Whether a Democrat would have done the same thing or not, it doesn't matter, using those images is in poor taste. How long can Bush ride the patriotic wave of post 9/11? I'm hoping it ends before November, because I simply can't imagine four more years of his dictatorship.
David Fuccillo, NYC, USA

Will he also be images of the spy plane scandal he had with China when he 1st took office - or the court room drama he had before he got into office ???
Chris, UK

There is the MAJORITY who are fully supportive of Mr Bush and the American people. EVERYONE should watch the footage of 9/11 again and think hard!!
Jez, Durham

Victims of the 9/11 terror attack must be allowed to rest in peace. Their images should not be used in any manner or form and it is disrespect to the departed souls.
Arunasalam Mahadevan, London, UK

The ads are exploitation of a horrible event that affected many people. When this happened Mr. Bush was not a hero, he did his job. If 9/11 is what is being put forth as the reasons for his future decisions, then he needs to show clips of the bombing of Afghanistan, and Iraq, to show his accomplishments.
M. Clark, UK/US

It's very interesting that the small group of victims' families who object are supported by the Firemen's Union. The same union who supports John Kerry. Just goes to show that NO ONE is above being used for political purposes.
Frank, Kansas City, USA

What can you expect to use from a person who have been failing to create jobs for the American and instead creating a huge deficit in the budget as a result of his incompetence in his campaign ads.
Gokhan, Kearny, NJ, USA

There is nothing wrong with reminders that this is a very real issue for all of us to deal with
Philip Heller, USA
I think Bush was right to use them - and I think there would be nothing wrong with John Kerry using them as well. September 11 was a terrible day in US history - and the history of the world. There is nothing wrong with reminders that this is a very real issue for all of us to deal with.
Philip Heller, USA

This is almost a parody of Republican tactless and manipulative politics, I bet we'll see a lot worse in the next 7 months.
Aryn, London UK

The 9/11 gimmick is the only thing Bush has to be re-elected...I have yet to hear a speech without him referring to his "boldness" and "courage" following the period after the incident
Salan, Dubai, UAE

There has been no significant terrorist attack on America since 9/11. Bush is right to remind the American public of this, since it is an important, probably the most important, statistic for most Americans.
Sebastian, Oxford, England

Personally, I feel that it's pretty cheap of Bush to play up people's emotions with a tragedy that did not only affect Americans, but people from all over the world. In a display of hypocrisy that has typified this administration, the media is not allowed to show images of dead soldiers returning from the war Bush pushed for, but he is allowed to us images of the destruction at Ground Zero. So what is Bush's team says they're tasteful? The families of the victims say they aren't and, having been directly affected by this tragedy, shouldn't their opinions count for more?
Blake Murphy, New York, United States

The event has been central to his major decisions over the past years
Zoe, England
Any image from 9/11 could be used by Bush and may be very effective in his campaign. The event has been central to his major decisions over the past years. However, caution should be used by his "spin" people as they may do him more harm than good.
Zoe, England

9/11 occurred during the Bush watch. It is a part of his record. Therefore, he has every right to remind and inform the voters of issues and situations that occurred during his Presidency. GWB held this nation together after 9/11, and he has every right to remind people of that fact. If there were a Democratic president during this term, they would be airing the same type of ads.
Brian O'Hare, New York, New York

I find it curious that this administration forbids media coverage of the cargo planes returning to Dover, Delaware with body bags of our fallen soldiers. . . yet they are willing to wave the flag over the dead being carried by a team of firefighters? Must be a republican thing?
Paul Cassidy, Florida, USA

9/11 was the defining event of Bush's presidency. Of course he has a right to explain to the public why he thinks he reacted the right way. The people who are exploiting it are his holier-than-thou opponents.
Alex Swanson, Milton Keynes, UK

They're far more dignified than most of the TV coverage of 9/11
Peter, UK
The Bush-bashers forget quite how impressive President Bush was post-9/11. He (and Giuliani) did an incredible job of holding a shattered nation together. He has many failings but he should at least be allowed to refer to one of his finer moments. I've seen the adverts and they're far more dignified than most of the TV coverage of 9/11.
Peter, UK

It's a cheap, emotional ploy. What else does everyone expect? But I like it that more and more people are seeing Bush for his true colours, so this faux pas has been eye opening for many.
Tony, UK

It is distasteful and exploitative for such grave images to be used as advertising for any politicians' glitzy election campaign. Tragic events like 9/11 have no bearing on a man's ability to run his country. There is more to being a leader than simply fighting wars. Bush should refrain from using such advertising, immediately and publicly apologise for the offence he has caused.
Mark H, UK

It's an utter disgrace to capitalise on the tragedy and only serves to show the true character of the president. It isn't tasteful - and it certainly doesn't help relatives of those murdered in the attack. Bush is way off the mark and is getting (yet again) some very bad advice from his so-called advisors. He got my vote when he ran against Gore, but he won't get it this time.
D. Stewart, Jacksonville, North Carolina

The post-9/11 inquiry revealed that the Bush administration downgraded the Al-Qaeda threat, from the level held by the outgoing Clinton administration. To subsequently exploit the tragedy for political purposes reveals the sheer depth of Bush's morally bankruptcy.
Jon E, France

Role on November and Kerry
Andrew Morrow, Leighton Buzzard, UK
Bush will use any tactic to ensure his re-election; just ask Katherine Harris. With Bush's murky involvement with the Bin Laden family I think his use of these images in utterly distasteful and disrespectful. Another demonstration of the extreme methods this dangerous man will use to stay in power. Role on November and Kerry.
Andrew Morrow, Leighton Buzzard, UK

The images should not have been used. Bush however has always done what he wants. The man's on a self mission, regardless of any consequences.
Ben, Kintbury, Berks

If Al Gore had been the president, chances are he would have used the same images, and it would have been those Republican victims complaining. I'm no fan of Mr Bush, but I feel that 9/11 is so intertwined with this presidential term that it's hard not to make any reference to it.
Mick, Amsterdam, The Netherlands

I saw the advertisement on TV here. I have no intention of voting for Bush in November BUT I don't really see a problem with the 9/11 images. After all the event did happen during his presidency.
Stephen Daly, Beloit, Wisconsin

Bush doesn't make a move without being "coached" and his "handlers" badly miscalculated that tasteless political ad.
Marjo Miller, Seattle, USA

"Tasteful" or not, such tragedy should not be used to gain votes. It's a lack of respect, what happened on 9/11 should put aside political ideas. I just saw the ad, it's cheap sentiment. Bah.
Leen, Ghent, Belgium

Are they in poor taste or do people just have a problem being reminded of the past? Ok 9/11 was a terrible day, but we mustn't forget what happened and remember those whose lives were lost. The ads are being shown in a patriotic manner and I see nothing wrong with it.
Maya McKee, Southampton, UK

Bush says his use of 9-11 images in his re-election campaign is just - that it's a reminder of our shared experiences. Yes, indeed. A bitter reminder that Bush has failed to capture the person responsible for this tragedy - opting instead to attack Iraq for its oil.
Barbara Baker, Gardner, IL, USA


News Front Page | World | UK | England | Northern Ireland | Scotland | Wales | Politics
Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature | Technology | Health | Education
Have Your Say | Magazine | In Pictures | Week at a Glance | Country Profiles | In Depth | Programmes
Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific