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Romney camp turns controversial cancer ad against President Obama

Mitt Romney's campaign is turning a controversial ad from a super-PAC supporting President Obama into a weapon of its own, releasing a television ad on Friday that questions the president's character.

“What does it say about a president’s character when his campaign tries to use the tragedy of a woman’s death for political gain?" says the narrator in the new Romney campaign ad. "What does it say about a president’s character when he had his campaign raise money for the ad then stood by as his top aides were caught lying about it? Doesn’t America deserve better than a president who will say or do anything to stay in power?”

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Video accompanying the ad blasts the commercial from Priorities USA, the pro-Obama super-PAC, as "disgusting" and an "unfair attack."

At a press briefing in Boston on Friday morning, Romney adviser Eric Fehrnstrom echoed the attack, saying the ads from Obama's allies "diminish the office of president and insult the American people."

“They've gone from what started out as petty distortions and untruths to unbelievable exaggerations that diminish the office of president and insult the American people,” Fehrnstrom said, according to Buzzfeed. “I don’t think a world-champion limbo dancer could get any lower than the Obama campaign right now.”

The ad, which has not yet aired, was filmed by the super-PAC run by former White House aide Bill Burton, and features a steelworker who used to work for a company that was taken over by Bain Capital, the investment firm founded by Mitt Romney. The worker lost his job and health insurance, and the ad insinuates a link between that and his wife's subsequent death from cancer.

Independent fact-checkers have noted, however, that the cancer patient featured in the ad died six years after Bain bought the husband's company, that she had her own health insurance through her employer, and that Romney was not in charge of the investment firm when her husband was let go.

The president and his campaign have avoided comment on the commercial, saying they are not legally allowed to coordinate with the super-PAC. Pressed during the White House briefing on Friday, Press Secretary Jay Carney insisted "we do not control the ad" and, when asked to comment on its appropriateness, said "it's not for me to do."

"What this president is focused on is helping the economy grow, and helping it create jobs, and when he's out there campaigning he's bringing a message on the future," Carney said.

Carney also looked to turn the tables, criticizing the Romney campaign for a "categorically false and blatantly dishonest representation of the president's policy" in recent ads about welfare reform. Carney said that unlike the super-PAC ad, which hadn't gone to air yet and could not be legally coordinated with the campaign, the Romney commercial — also criticized by independent fact-checkers — had "millions and millions of dollars behind it."

But the Romney campaign believes they have seized the moral high ground, and hope that by hammering the president over the cancer ad, they can erode some of the likability gap fueling the president's lead in the polls.

“When you start running ads accusing your opponent of killing people, then you have lost your credibility,” Fehrnstrom said.