(CNN) - As if the relationship between the tea party and veteran GOP strategist Karl Rove wasn't stained enough, the Tea Party Patriots apologized Tuesday for blasting out an email with an edited image of Rove wearing a Nazi uniform.
In the original fundraising message sent out Tuesday morning–with the subject line: "Wipe the Smirk Off Karl Rove's Face"–the group said "professional political cronies like Karl Rove are attacking the Tea Party movement."
"They see people like you and me as a serious nuisance, and they will do everything they can to crush us," the email stated, with a pitch to send an online donation and support the organization.
Tea party Republicans have been in a war of words with Rove ever since he launched another super PAC, this one dedicated to ensuring candidates fare better in Republican primaries. Founders of the group point to six lost Senate elections in the last two cycles due to "undisciplined candidates and subpar campaigns."
"Our object is not to be for the establishment, it's to be for the most conservative candidate that can win," Rove said February 6 during an appearance on Fox News, where he is a paid contributor.
While Rove, the former top political adviser to President George W. Bush and co-founder of American Crossroads and Crossroads GPS, argues the effort is merely an attempt to groom better candidates, some conservative Republicans say the top strategist is trying to shut out tea party-minded candidates. The two sides have been entrenched in a bitter feud over the last two weeks.
However, Jenny Beth Martin, co-founder of Tea Party Patriots, one of the largest tea party groups in the country, apologized for the email Tuesday afternoon, saying the image was crafted by an "outside vendor."
The image, which was attached to a URL link, has been removed from the original email, but the photo was saved by multiple news outlets.
It was "wrong and we have ordered them to immediately cease further use of the image," she said in a statement, adding that they "did not know about or approve" the manufactured photo.
"We apologize to Mr. Rove," the statement read. "While we may have strong disagreements with him on the future of conservatism, we want to be clear this imagery is absolutely unacceptable and are working to ensure this type of mistake doesn't happen again."
– CNN's Ashley Killough, John King, Paul Steinhauser, Kevin Liptak and Kevin Bohn contributed to this report.