The White House on Wednesday asked a political action committee that supports Maryland Rep. Donna Edwards' Senate bid to pull an advertisement on gun control for being "misleading.''
Rep. Chris Van Hollen, Edwards' opponent in the Democratic primary who is targeted in the ad, denounced it as "a new low in Maryland politics."
Jennifer Friedman, a spokeswoman for President Barack Obama, said the Working for Us PAC was asked to pull the ad by David Simas, the White House political director.
"He made clear that the use of the president's image and statement in this context were misleading," Friedman said.
The ad shows Obama tearing up while talking about Connecticut's Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting. The television ad says Van Hollen supported a campaign finance disclosure bill that didn't include the National Rifle Association. The ad also says the congressman met with NRA lobbyists to put a loophole in the bill to exempt them, while Edwards stood up to the gun lobby.
"We had nothing to do with the ad and would not have used the president's image, but Donna would never have cut a deal with the NRA like Congressman Van Hollen did," said Benjamin Gerdes, a spokesman for the Edwards campaign.
Joshua Henne, a spokesman for Working for Us, said the super PAC will take the president out of the ad.
"The ad speaks for itself," spokesman Joshua Henne said in a statement. "However, out of respect for the White House and the work they've done on this important issue, we will be taking President Obama out of the spot."
Van Hollen denounced the ad during a news conference in Baltimore, where he noted he has long been an advocate for gun-control laws, earning him an F rating from the NRA.
"This ad represents a new low in Maryland politics," Van Hollen said. "It's absolutely despicable to mislead voters on any issue, but especially on the tragic issue of gun violence. It takes such a toll on all our communities."
Former Maryland Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend, whose father Robert F. Kennedy was shot to death in 1968, defended Van Hollen as a strong supporter of gun-control laws, and she criticized Edwards for running a highly negative campaign.
"We do not want dishonest," Townsend said, standing next to Van Hollen at the news conference. "We do not want people who don't tell the truth about what's going on in the state of Maryland. Chris Van Hollen has been fighting for the rights of people who need to be protected against gun violence."
The competitive primary has been characterized by negative campaigning. Van Hollen and Edwards are running for a rarely open Senate seat when Sen. Barbara Mikulski retires at the end of her term.