updated 2/13/2004 5:03:48 PM ET 2004-02-13T22:03:48

CBS has stopped running the Bush administration’s publicly funded ad for the new Medicare prescription drug law, pending a review of its content by congressional investigators.

The 30-second ad, titled “Same Medicare. More Benefits,” has prompted strong criticism from Democratic lawmakers and a range of interest groups who say it is a barely disguised commercial for President Bush’s re-election campaign.

Democrats asked the General Accounting Office, Congress’ investigative arm, to examine whether the administration should be using taxpayer money to air the commercial. And several lawmakers have been lobbying network executives to get them to yank the ad, pending the GAO review.

“As soon as we became aware of the investigation, we pulled it,” CBS spokesman Dana McClintock said Friday. He said the network stopped airing the ad several days ago.

Kevin Keane, a spokesman for the Health and Human Services Department, said CBS’ decision was arbitrary, noting that the network accepted the ad and began airing it on Feb. 3.

“If it was OK then, it should remain OK now,” Keane said. “It’s a lack of judgment by CBS.”

Keane said other television networks are continuing to run the ad. He said ABC insisted that the government edit part of the ad — which asserts that members “can save with Medicare drug discount cards this June. And save more with prescription drug coverage in 2006” — to indicate that savings can vary.

Spokesmen at ABC, CNN, Fox and NBC did not immediately provide comment Friday.

HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson said Thursday he will withdraw the ad only if GAO determines it’s political.

But Thompson vigorously defended the content of the commercial and said the law authorizes him to mount an extensive campaign to educate recipients about significant changes to Medicare.

HHS is spending $9.5 million to air the ad on network and cable television through March.

A media firm with ties to Bush’s re-election effort, National Media Inc. of Alexandria, Va., also is working on the Medicare campaign.

© 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


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