Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Responds to Political Ad That Showed Her Image on Fire

Photographed by Tawni Bannister

"This is the face of socialism," former Republican congressional candidate Elizabeth Heng says in an inflammatory ad that aired on at least one Sinclair station, prompting outrage on social media.

An ad run by a Republican-affiliated political group that aired on at least one Sinclair Broadcast Group affiliate station sparked controversy during ABC's Democratic presidential debate on Thursday night after it called out "the face of socialism" while targeting Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. 

The video, narrated by former Republican congressional candidate Elizabeth Heng, was run by a political action committee called New Faces that aims to recruit more diverse Republican political candidates. 

"This is the face of socialism and ignorance," Heng says, as a burning picture of Ocasio-Cortez is shown, which then transitions to photos of skulls and scenes from the Cambodian genocide. "Does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez know the horrors of socialism?” Heng continues. “My father was minutes from death in Cambodia before a forced marriage saved his life. That’s socialism: Forced obedience. Starvation. That's socialism."

"Mine is a face of freedom. My skin is not white. I'm not outrageous, racist nor socialist. I'm a Republican," she later says in the 30-second ad. 

When promoting the video on Twitter, New Faces GOP tweeted: "We have a choice: Will we let socialists like @AOC be the face of our future? Or will a new generation of conservatives step up & lead us?" (ABC, which does not oversee advertising decisions made by affiliate stations, has not commented on the video.)

In response to the ad, Ocasio-Cortez took to Twitter to slam the video on Thursday. "Republicans are running TV ads setting pictures of me on fire to convince people they aren’t racist," she wrote. "Life is weird! ... Know that this wasn’t an ad for young conservatives of color — that was the pretense. What you just watched was a love letter to the GOP’s white supremacist case." 

Heng later shot back on Twitter, asking Ocasio-Cortez: "Are you really calling me a racist?" She added: "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?" she added.

Ocasio-Cortez called out ABC and Sinclair by name on Friday morning, writing: "GOP’s message: No policy, no facts, just displays of violence + corporations like @ABCNetwork & Sinclair who amplify them. They profit from burning my likeness on TV. But who pays for heightened security? Who answers the phones for the threats resulting from a violent, false ad?"

New Faces GOP PAC is an independent expenditure political group created in March. According to their website, the political group says they were formed "because our country is at risk of being destroyed by extreme, socialist Democrats who want to upend the American way of life. If we are going to compete on the battlefield of ideas, we must find new faces from the Republican Party stand up to lead."

Watch the ad below.