UCare, a Minneapolis based health-insurance provider, has pulled its advertising from KSTP-TV after the station aired a controversial news story suggesting that Mayor Betsy Hodges and a young black canvasser posed for a photo while flashing a hand signal associated with a North Side gang.

Dan Ness, UCare marketing director, declined to say how much the company spent a year on air time, but said that the number was in the five figures.

“I pulled the ads, because I didn’t want the UCare brand associated with an organization that appeared to denigrate an entire (segment) of the community,” Ness said on Monday afternoon.

UCare, which covers about 450,000 people in Minnesota and western Wisconsin, announced last week (as first reported by Insight News) that it would withdraw advertising from any media outlet whose reporting crosses “lines and upsets so many people,” Ness said.

“The bottom line is just the right thing to do,” he added.

Hodges’ spokeswoman and the man in the photo, Navell Gordon, have said they were merely pointing at each other, spawning an Internet frenzy that came to be known as #pointergate. A growing number of critics say the story smacks of racism and have mounted an Internet campaign calling on other local businesses to stop advertising with KSTP.

Station owner Stanley Hubbard has defended KSTP’s decision to air the story.