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Bloggers catch Kaloogian Baghdad photo flub

Howard Kaloogian, a former Republican State Assemblyman running to fill Randall "Duke" Cunningham's seat in the 50th Congressional district, was on the offensive Wednesday after several Internet blogs showed a photograph on his Web site touted as a picture of a peaceful Iraq was actually taken outside Istanbul.

Kaloogian toured Baghdad in 2005 as part of a "Voices of Soldiers" tour with several radio talk show hosts to hear the troops' assessment of progress in Iraq. Part of the delegation had a lengthy airplane stopover in Turkey on the way home and took a cab into Istanbul and took pictures, according to Kaloogian's spokesman, Sal Russo. When gathering all the photos after the trip, the Istanbul photos were mixed in, and since most of the delegation had only been to Baghdad, Kaloogian's campaign assumed all the photos were of the Iraqi capital and posted the photo on his Web site.

The above photo's caption read: "We took this photo of downtown Baghdad while we were in Iraq. Iraq (including Baghdad) is much more calm and stable than what many people believe it to be. But, each day the news media finds any violence occurring in the country and screams and shouts about it -- in part because many journalists are opposed to the U.S. effort to fight terrorism."

The campaign has since removed the photo from its Web site and replaced it with real pictures of Baghdad, but the original photo is still available on the blogs. It shows a fairly bustling street with billboards, taxis and a young couple holding hands while walking.

A blog on a Philadelphia newspaper company's Web site, pnionline.com, apparently raised the issue first, pointing out that none of the signs are in Arabic and the young woman is wearing a tight, thin-strapped tank top that would not likely be worn in public in a culturally conservative Islamic country. Later, another blog, dailykos.com, published a photo of what appears to be the same street, though from a different angle, and the photographer said it's from just outside Istanbul, Turkey.

While the bloggers accused Kaloogian of outright lying, the candidate said it was a "clerical mistake." According to a statement from his campaign, after the July trip, during which Kaloogian led a delegation of radio talk show hosts to Iraq to interview U.S. troops, part of the delegation went to Istanbul. The photograph was loaded onto Kaloogian's site because it was thought to have been taken in Baghdad.

"My campaign mistakenly mislabeled a photograph as being from Baghdad, Iraq, when it is in fact from Istanbul, Turkey," Kaloogian said in a written statement. "Immediately after I realized this error I had the photograph replaced with one we took from Baghdad."

"I made a mistake in posting the wrong picture, and I accept full responsibility for it," he continued. "However, the anti-war activists who are supporting (opposing candidate) Democrat Francine Busby are trying to use this clerical mistake as justification for opposing the war. How silly."

Recent polls have shown Kaloogian is third among Republicans in the race and fourth overall, with Busby leading. A poll by software company Datamar has Kaloogian with as much as 10.6 percent of the vote. A Lakeside Research poll has him tied with candidate Eric Roach for 7 percent.

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