Political Ad Showing Drowning Child Taken Off Air

Some viewers said they had lost a child to drowning, while others simply thought the ad was too much.

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Less than a month ago, a provocative ad showing a little boy drowning began airing on national news networks. The ad, created by a new campaign called "Too Small To Fail," was intended to get people's attention about issues facing America's kids, including poverty, unemployment and lack of health insurance.

Two weeks later, Too Small was forced to respond to a wave of criticism over the ad.

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"We first want to say to anyone who has lost a child, that we are truly sorry for the loss you have suffered," the campaign wrote in a statement on Facebook Nov. 21. "We want to deeply apologize if this advertisement added to your pain."

But the ad campaign continued, with the "Drowning" ad playing on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News. And it continued to receive bipartisan support from Republican consultant Mark McKinnon—a former George W. Bush advisor—and Jim Margolis, who advises Obama though his media firm GMMB. Both were involved in the making of the ad.

Now, Too Small tells Whispers the ad is no longer on air, and that they've canceled plans to renew its initial run.

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"There was a small subset of people, who we are very sympathetic to, who had the tragic experience of their child dying. Others thought it was too much," says Ann O'Leary, a director at the Center for the Next Generation, the group that is behind the Too Small campaign. "So we decided not to keep buying more spots for the ad. We wanted people to understand that we were being respectful." The campaign has also responded to the criticism with a video explaining the thinking behind "Drowning."

 "I hope this ad upsets people," Margolis says in the video. "We should upset people because there's a crisis in this country with our kids." Margolis says that if the group is seeing a backlash, "then maybe we're doing our job."

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  • Elizabeth Flock is a staff writer for U.S. News & World Report. You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook or reach her at eflock@usnews.com.