The clip opens with ominous music and a portrait of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.) bursting into flames to reveal a pile of skulls.
“This is the face of socialism and ignorance,” the narrator intones. “Does Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez know the horror of socialism?”
The jarring ad, which aired on ABC during Thursday’s Democratic presidential debate in Houston , compares the freshman Democrat’s support of democratic socialism to the communist Khmer Rouge regime in Cambodia that oversaw a genocide that killed an estimated 1.7 million people in the 1970s.
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The spot, funded by a newly formed Republican PAC and narrated by a recently defeated California GOP candidate, left Ocasio-Cortez accusing its producers of racism and some questioning why ABC approved the ad. (The network didn’t immediately respond to messages on Thursday night.)
“Know that this wasn’t an ad for young conservatives of color — that was the pretense,” Ocasio-Cortez tweeted . “What you just watched was a love letter to the GOP’s white supremacist case.”
The ad was produced by New Faces GOP, a PAC that aims to bring “candidate from all races, ethnicities, gender, or geography” to the Republican Party. The Fresno-based organization is fronted by Elizabeth Heng, who lost in November to Rep. Jim Costa (D-Calif.) in a 16th Congressional District race by a 54 percent to 46 percent margin.
Heng narrates the ad by highlighting her family’s story. Her parents, Chieu Heng and Siv Khoeu, survived the Cambodian Civil War, during which the Khmer Rouge under Pol Pot slaughtered up to one in every five Cambodians . Her parents eventually made their way to Fresno, where they have operated a market for 25 years, the Fresno Bee reported .
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In the ad that aired on Thursday, Heng draws a direct line from her parent’s traumatic story to the policies supported by Ocasio-Cortez.
“My father was minutes away from death in Cambodia,” Heng says. “That’s socialism. Forced obedience, starvation.”
Heng also suggests her story shows the room for diversity in a GOP increasingly defined by President Trump’s white identity politics .
“Mine is a face of freedom. My skin is not white, I’m not outrageous, racist, or socialist,” she says. “I’m a Republican.”
Ocasio-Cortez, though, argued that by marrying her portrait with such violent imagery, the ad actually made the opposite point.
Republicans are running TV ads setting pictures of me on fire to convince people they aren’t racist.
Life is weird!
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) September 13, 2019 Heng quickly responded by taking full credit for the video, rather than national Republican figures.
Not Republicans. Me. Are you really calling me a racist @aoc ? I’m calling all Democrats out for supporting an evil ideology. Or are you just in Congress to hang out with celebrities and tweet out ridiculous ideas like the green new deal? https://t.co/w985LYjIZd
— Elizabeth Heng (@ElizabethHeng) September 13, 2019 As Ocasio-Cortez and other left-wing voices have gained prominence in the Democratic Party, Trump and the GOP have sought to tie their views to everyone from the Nazis to Nicolás Maduro’s Venezuelan government. As The Washington Post’s Fact Checker noted in March , these are often “facile comparisons, ignorant of history.”
Heng, whose PAC has raised about $170,000 to date , is no stranger to confrontational ads. She was criticized during her campaign against Costa for running an ad depicting a look-alike of the Democrat walking the street in high heels, suggesting he was walking in the shoes of House Majority Leader Nancy Pelosi, the Bee reported .
LINK ORIGINAL: Washington Post