- Associated Press - Wednesday, September 24, 2014

COLUMBIA, S.C. (AP) - Sen. Vincent Sheheen’s campaign has deleted part of a Web ad attacking Gov. Nikki Haley’s Department of Social Services because one of the three children it says the agency ignored had no involvement with the department before his death.

The original ad ran online for several hours Tuesday before the Democratic nominee’s campaign switched it out. The 30-second replacement no longer mentions the 2-year-old boy who was killed by his father’s girlfriend last year.

DSS spokeswoman Marilyn Matheus said the agency was involved with the woman charged, when she was a child, but not with the boy.

The Cabinet agency has become a central part of the governor’s race. Since January, a bipartisan Senate panel has been investigating claims that the agency’s focus on improving numbers put children in danger. The hearings have focused on the deaths of several children and the high caseloads of social service workers. The panel expects to release a report before the Legislature returns in January.

Both Sheheen and independent candidate Tom Ervin have released TV ads critical of the agency.

Former director Lillian Koller resigned in June, after months of Haley refusing calls that she fire her.

Haley’s campaign quickly pounced on the Web ad removal, with spokesman Rob Godfrey issuing a statement saying Sheheen’s been “caught red-handed” in a lie.

“He should absolutely be ashamed of himself - first for exploiting tragically murdered children for his political benefit, and second for lying while he does it,” Godfrey said.

Sheheen’s campaign said it based information on the boy’s case on an alternative newspaper’s report last October.

The ad was unveiled by Sheheen at a news conference Tuesday. Following questions about the boy’s case from The Post and Courier, the campaign re-cut the ad.

Still, said campaign manager Andrew Whalen, many other children were harmed or even killed while DSS was involved.

“If Nikki Haley were half as responsive to the investigation into her DSS as she is whenever we talk about these tragedies, many of these children could still be alive today,” Whalen said.

Sheheen’s not alone in changing out a Web ad.

In 2010, Haley - then the GOP nominee - pulled an online ad that used a popular Black Eyed Peas song without permission. The 4 ½-minute ad showed images of Haley at events as “I Gotta Feeling” played. Godfrey confirmed then that the campaign did not have permission to use the group’s music.

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