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Debunked, ‘Disgusting’ Ad Tying Romney to Cancer Death Allegedly Airs ‘in Error’

Jeff Swensen/Getty Images(WASHINGTON) -- A controversial TV ad tying Mitt Romney to a woman’s cancer death aired Tuesday for the first time in Ohio, allegedly in error, according to the pro-Obama super PAC that produced it.

"Station error is all," explained Priorities USA Action senior strategist Bill Burton. "Kind of like when the Florida station accidentally aired Restore Our Future's anti-Gingrich ad in June."

The ethics and accuracy of the claims in the 30-second spot -- titled "Understands" -- have been the subject of intense debate since it first appeared online one week ago, with former President Clinton aide Lanny Davis calling it "disgusting."

His criticism wasn't alone. Republicans and some other Democrats say the group crossed a line in suggesting Romney’s role at Bain Capital contributed to a woman’s death. Fact-checkers debunked the ad's suggestion that the woman died after her husband's layoff from a Bain-owned factory or the allegation she lacked health insurance because of the move. 

The Obama campaign first said it wasn't familiar with the ad, but was forced to backpedal when fact-checkers found the ad's main speaker, Joe Soptic, in other pro-Obama ads. The administration has refused to disavow the ad, claiming no affiliation with the super PAC -- even though administration officials have fundraised for it and former White House staffers run its operations.

Burton has argued that criticism of the ad is overblown and that it fairly reflects the long-term consequences of bankruptcies and corporate buyouts by Romney’s Bain Capital -- despite the fact that the spot's allegations have been debunked.

With the outcry and debate, there has been much speculation about whether the ad would air at all. Priorities USA officials have been coy about the delay in the ad’s hitting the airwaves, insisting only that it has been, “shipped to television stations” and would air on demand.

The free attention garnered by the controversy alone seemed to be a desired effect of Priorities. The spot has had over 700,000 views online, and as of Friday, four of the top five states in which it's been viewed online include Florida, Virginia, Ohio and Pennsylvania, a Priorities official said.

BuzzFeed’s Zeke Miller first reported Tuesday night that the ad officially aired in Cleveland that morning, citing an, "ad buy tracking source."

Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio

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