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A new ad by Democratic gubernatorial candidate Vincent Sheheen slams Gov. Nikki Haley and the Department of Social Services because of recent cases of children who died after DSS got involved with their families.

 The ad stars Richland County Sheriff Leon Lott, who says, "I've handled thousands of child abuse cases. We have to protect these vulnerable kids. But children are dying, children Nikki Haley's administration is supposed to protect."

It is true that children have died after DSS involvement. Wednesday, the parents of 4-year-old Robert Guinyard, Jr. were convicted of killing him and were sentenced to life without parole. DSS had received several calls about the boy’s safety. At one point four years ago, DSS took him from his parents, but later returned him.

DSS director Lillian Koller says the system did fail Robert Guinyard and more should have been done. But at one point when a DSS caseworker went to the home to check on him, his parents brought out a cousin and said he was Robert to keep the caseworker from seeing his injuries.

In the ad, Sheriff Lott says, "Instead of demanding accountability, Nikki Haley is covering up her administration's failures." The ad shows headlines saying, “Gov. Nikki Haley is resisting calls to fire DSS director Lillian Koller” and “Haley took to Facebook to defend DSS Director Lillian Koller.”

It is true that the governor has defended Koller.

But her campaign points out the claim that she is “covering up her administration’s failures” comes from an article in The Free Times, which it claims is not a credible source. The article uses an unnamed source to claim Sen. Katrina Shealy, a Republican who’s on a Senate subcommittee that’s investigating the problems at DSS, says some of Haley’s staff members tried to intimidate her into calling off the hearings. But Sen. Shealy told the Associated Press that the governor’s staff never tried to intimidate or influence anyone regarding the hearings.

The ad also uses a headline saying DSS fails to comply with the state’s 24-hour response law. DSS says last year, 97.1 percent of child protective services investigations were started within 24 hours.

Sheriff Lott ends the ad by saying, "Vincent Sheheen is a former prosecutor who won't play politics with children's lives.”

Haley campaign spokesman Rob Godfrey says, “This ad wins the academy award for irony.  Vince Sheheen says he’s not playing politics with children’s lives, but that’s exactly what he’s doing with this ad.”

Photo Credit: Sean Pavone Photo Shutterstock