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Giffords PAC to change anti-Coffman ad that mirrored Colorado school shooting

Authors: 9News, Colorado Politics - September 26, 2018 - Updated: September 26, 2018

DEM-Gabby-2016-Convention_Luni-68-1024x706.jpg
Former Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz, and her husband Astronaut Mark Kelly (Ret.), exit the stage after speaking during the third day of the Democratic National Convention in Philadelphia , Wednesday, July 27, 2016. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

A political action committee co-founded by former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle “Gabby” Giffords has agreed to change an advertisement targeting U.S. Rep. Mike Coffman that appeared to mirror the story of a school shooting in Colorado.

The Giffords PAC, which advocates against gun violence, was behind the ad. The political action committee was formed by Giffords, an Arizona Democrat who was seriously wounded in a mass shooting, and her husband, former astronaut Mark Kelly.

The ad resembled aspects of 16-year-old Emily Keyes’ death at Platte Canyon High School in Bailey on Sept. 27, 2006, when an armed attacker held her hostage as she texted her family and then shot her.

The child portrayed in the ad is named Emily. She is depicted texting her mother: “Someone has a gun and they can’t find him. … I’m so scared. I love u. Tell dad I love him.”

Giffords PAC had announced Monday that the group would run the ad as part of a nearly $1.5 million campaign “underscoring the choice Colorado voters have before them this election when it comes to gun safety.”

“NRA-backed politicians, like Congressman Mike Coffman, aren’t doing anything to prevent it from happening in real life,” the political group’s announcement said.

Coffman, an Aurora Republican in a tough re-election battle against Democrat Jason Crow for the 6th Congressional District seat, on Tuesday tweeted: “I respect Gabby Giffords, but exploiting the name and horrible death of one of our own to try to win an election is beneath basic human dignity. I can take criticism, but this is gross. This ad should be pulled and someone should be fired.”

Emily Keyes’ father, John-Michael Keyes, told 9News he had asked the Giffords PAC to take the ad off the air. The group agreed to make changes to the ad.

“They assured us that the similarities were coincidental and they would be altering the advertisement and reposting a new version on social media and other internet sites,” he wrote in an email. “We believe that any connection to the tragedy our family experienced was unintentional.”

The Crow campaign also had called for changes to the ad, and supported the plan to make changes.

“The decision to respect the Keyes family’s wishes and remove any mention of Emily’s name from the ad is the right one,” a campaign spokesman told Colorado Public Radio. “Going forward, Mike Coffman should be outraged whenever gun violence affects families — not just when it affects his re-election campaigns.”

In a media statement, Peter Ambler, director of Giffords PAC, said: “This ad was not modeled after any one individual tragedy. We are amending the ad, removing a name all together and making clear that it is not connected to any one incident. Given how many families have experienced gun violence tragedies, there isn’t any name we could have used that wouldn’t be connected to a victim somewhere.”

As of Wednesday, a version of the original ad posted to YouTube had been taken down.

Giffords and Kelly recently campaigned in Colorado on behalf of Crow. Giffords endosed Crow for the 6th District seat last November.

Under election rules, the Giffords PAC cannot coordinate its activities with the Crow campaign.

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Colorado Politics

Colorado Politics, formerly The Colorado Statesman, is the state's premier political news publication, renowned for its award-winning journalism. The publication is also the oldest political news outlet in the state, in continuous publication since 1898. Colorado Politics covers the stories behind the stories in Colorado's state Capitol and across the Centennial State, focusing on politics, public policy and elections with in-depth reporting on the people behind the campaigns — from grassroots supporters to campaign managers and the candidates and issues themselves.