(AP) Wal-Mart Stores Inc. is apologizing for a newspaper ad featuring a photo of a book-burning in Nazi-era Germany. The ad was published in a northern Arizona newspaper by a political action committee the company helped fund.
The company was writing an apology letter Friday to the Anti-Defamation League in Arizona and will run an apology ad this weekend in Flagstaff’s Arizona Daily Sun, which carried the original ad, said Daphne Moore, director of community affairs for Wal-Mart.
“It was a terrible mistake and one that we sincerely regret,” Moore said.
The ad ran as part of a campaign opposing an ordinance that would effectively prevent Wal-Mart from opening a supercenter in Flagstaff. The ordinance was passed by the Flagstaff City Council but voters are being asked to ratify it.
The ad showed a historic photo of people throwing books into a large fire. A swastika is clearly visible near the center of the photo.
The text below it reads: “Should we let government tell us what we can read?”
It says it was paid for by Protect Flagstaff’s Future, the political action committee, with “major funding” by Wal-Mart.
Moore said the ad was prepared by an outside agency but reviewed and approved by Wal-Mart. “Whoever the individual who approved it was, was not aware of the historical context of the picture,” she said.
The company apologized after receiving complaints from members of the public and the ADL.
HighGround Inc., the Phoenix company that prepared the ad, and the political action committee are also apologizing for the use of the photo, said HighGround President Charles Coughlin.
Bill Straus, Arizona regional director for the Anti-Defamation League, said the use of the image was clearly a mistake.
“I think all parties involved understand that a mistake was made,” Straus said. “They understand the impact of it and they understand the importance of doing everything they can to follow up, and that includes an apology for any offense, although unintended, that was taken.”