PHOENIX (AP) _ The Arizona Republic apologized for publishing an editorial cartoon that criticized capital punishment by using the image of a rescuer cradling a child killed in the Oklahoma City bombing.

A firefighter in the cartoon was labeled ``death penalty fanatics.'' The child says ``Please, no more killing,'' and the firefighter replies: ``Oh, stop your whining!''

It drew complaints from a national organization of firefighters, and the mother of the child featured in the photo.

``The images and the words created unintentional distress. And for that, the Republic apologizes,'' Pam Johnson, the newspaper's executive editor, said Saturday.

The June 11 cartoon by Pulitzer prize-winning cartoonist Steve Benson was based on a Pulitzer-winning photo that showed Oklahoma City firefighter Chris Fields holding the lifeless body of Baylee Almon.

Benson and newspaper editors at first refused to apologize, although Benson later said he didn't intend to hurt anyone with the cartoon.

As Paul J. Schatt, editorial pages editor for the Republic, put it, ``the whole point of editorial cartoons is to exaggerate to make a point.''

Johnson said that few who criticized the cartoon protested the cartoonist's views or role in provoking thought.

``The vast majority, including Baylee's mother, Aren Almon Kok, took offense at what they saw as insensitivity to the feelings of all victims, the rescuers, the community,'' she said.