Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez slammed a Republican political action committee ad that opened with an image of her face being consumed by flames, which ran during Thursday night's Democratic debate.
"Republicans are running TV ads setting pictures of me on fire to convince people they aren’t racist," the New York Democrat tweeted Thursday night after the ad ran during the debate on ABC. "Life is weird!"
The ad by the New Faces GOP PAC, headed by former congressional candidate Elizabeth Heng, opens with an image of Ocasio-Cortez's face. "This is the face of socialism and ignorance," Heng narrates as the image burns and melts away to reveal skeletons and then an image of a woman and four children. It apparently refers to the genocide by the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s.
"Does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez know the horror of socialism? My father was minutes from death in Cambodia before a forced marriage saved his life," Heng says. "Mine is a face of freedom. My skin is not white, I’m not outrageous, racist nor socialist. I’m a Republican."
Let our news meet your inbox. The news and stories that matters, delivered weekday mornings.
Heng, who lost her bid in November to unseat the Democratic incumbent in California's 16th Congressional district, is the daughter of Cambodian immigrants who escaped the communist Khmer Rouge, according to her biography on the New Faces GOP website.
The group spent $96,000 to run the ad, its first in the 2020 election cycle, in three media markets: New York City, Washington, D.C. and Fresno-Visalia, California.
The graphic ad quickly drew criticism on social media Thursday night. On Friday morning, #BoycottABC was a trending topic on Twitter. ABC did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Ocasio-Cortez, a first-term representative, is one of four progressive Democratic congresswomen of color, known as "the squad," who have been frequent targets of President Donald Trump and his supporters.
"Know that this wasn’t an ad for young conservatives of color — that was the pretense," Ocasio-Cortez continued on Twitter on Thursday night. "What you just watched was a love letter to the GOP’s white supremacist case."
Heng responded by asking in a tweet: "Are you really calling me a racist @aoc?"
"I’m calling all Democrats out for supporting an evil ideology," Heng wrote in the tweet. "Or are you just in Congress to hang out with celebrities and tweet out ridiculous ideas like the green new deal?"
The New Faces PAC's website says its goal is to "Help elevate the next generation of Republicans so that we can not only survive as a party, but expand beyond the boundaries we’ve set for ourselves," and "Identify the new faces of the GOP who will lead us into tomorrow."
Heng says in her bio on the site, "In one generation, I saw firsthand the power of the American Dream. That’s why I am going to continue to fight for freedom of speech, free-market capitalism, and the founding principles of our country that has allowed families like mine to dream bigger and achieve more than we ever imagined possible."