An ad agency that raised eyebrows with its misleading portrayal of a 9/11 firefighter apologized for the misunderstanding and said it has "voluntarily withdrawn" from the assignment.
An attorney for Robert Keiley, the real-life firefighter pictured in the law firm advertisement, told NBC New York that the ad was being pulled and will no longer appear anywhere.
In a statement, John Parker, the president of ad firm Barker/DZP said the agency did not know Keiley was an actual member of FDNY and apologized for the misunderstanding.
"At no time did we have any idea—or could we have had any knowledge--that the person in the photo was an actual firefighter, much less a New York City firefighter," Parker said. "This unfortunate coincidence makes the ad into something we never intended it to be."
The provocative ad featured an ash-covered, somber Keiley holding a photo of the remains of the World Trade Center underneath the headline, "I was there."
Keiley, 34, only joined the FDNY in 2004, and was working as a model for what he thought would be used for a fire-prevention ad, he told the New York Post, which first reported the story.
Keiley, who now works out of an engine company in Flatbush, told the Post, "It's an insult to the Fire Department. It's an insult to all the families who lost people that day.
"It makes me look like I'm cashing in on 9/11, saying I was there even though I was never there, and that I'm sick and possibly suing, trying to get a chunk of the money," he continued.
Small lettering on the bottom of the ad states: "This is an actor portrayal of a potential Zadroga claimant," referring to sick 9/11 workers who could receive aid under the federal James Zadroga Act.
The ad is for Worby Groner Edelman & Napoli Bern, the WTC-disaster law firm that had previously drawn criticism in May when its lawyers were ready to take home a third or more of a settlement negotiated on behalf of sickened ground zero workers.
"We sincerely apologize to Firefighter Keiley, as well as the New York City Fire Department, and the brave firefighters who fearlessly served their city and gave their lives on 9/11," Barker said in the statement.