Ad Targeting Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Draws a Backlash

The advertisement began with a photo of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez bursting into flames, followed by a black-and-white image of skulls lined up on the ground.

A Republican political action committee paid for the provocative advertisement, which aired during the Democratic primary debate on Thursday night.

The televised commercial came weeks after the shooting in El Paso, where a white nationalist killed 22 people in the deadliest massacre targeting Latinos in modern American history. Since El Paso, many Latinos have said they fear for their safety, worried about future attacks by white supremacists.

The group that paid for the ad, New Faces GOP, states on its website that its mission is to “help elevate the next generation of Republicans” and recruit more diverse candidates.

Ms. Ocasio-Cortez, a New York lawmaker who is one of about 40 Latinos in Congress, has previously spoken about receiving death threats and was one of four first-term congresswoman President Trump told to “go back where you came from.” Shortly after the advertisement aired, she called it “a love letter to the G.O.P.’s white supremacist case.”

By Friday morning, many critics on Twitter were calling for a boycott of ABC. Some defended the network by noting that the ad ran only on certain stations, including those owned by Sinclair Broadcast Group, which owns 193 local affiliates across the country.

National groups also criticized ABC for running the advertisement, saying it promoted violence and calling it “completely irresponsible.”

ABC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

On the debate stage, the Democratic candidates discussed the shooting in somber and urgent terms. Many of the candidates praised Beto O’Rourke, an El Paso native, for his aggressive response to the attack. During the debate, his campaign unveiled a new website labeling Mr. Trump a white supremacist.

The advertisement features Elizabeth Heng, a Republican from California’s Central Valley who lost her 2018 challenge to Jim Costa, a Democrat, by 15 percentage points.

“This is the face of socialism,” Ms. Heng says, as a picture of Ms. Ocasio-Cortez burns.

“Does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez know the horror of socialism?” Ms. Heng adds as a photo of skulls in a Khmer Rouge death camp in Cambodia is displayed.

“My father was minutes from death in Cambodia before a forced marriage saved his life,” Ms. Heng says. “That’s socialism: Forced obedience. Starvation.”

“Mine is a face of freedom — my skin is not white; I’m not outrageous, racist, nor socialist,” she adds. “I’m a Republican.”

Republicans have made a significant effort to recruit young candidates of color in recent years, and have stepped up such attempts in California since their 2018 losses. During the midterm elections, Republicans targeted some Democrats with ties to the Middle East by portraying them as terrorist sympathizers.

Ms. Heng appeared to take full credit for the advertisement Thursday night.

“Are you really calling me a racist,” she wrote on Twitter. “I’m calling all Democrats out for supporting an evil ideology.”

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