The next election year is rapidly approaching, and you know what that means: Cringe-worthy attack ads are coming soon to a TV near you.
Well, actually, some ads are coming sooner than we thought. At Thursday evening's Democratic primary debate, which was aired on ABC, an ad attacking Democratic congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez was played. However, its violent imagery — including a shot of AOC's face bursting into flames — has viewers up in arms.
After the image of the congresswoman's face is smothered in fire, the frame opens up to images of skulls and starving people as the narrator, recently defeated GOP candidate Elizabeth Heng, discusses her family's plight at the hands of the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia in the 1970s. The ad, which refers to Ocasio-Cortez as "the face of socialism," seems to imply that the Democratic party and, more specifically, AOC's democratic socialism, is somehow similar to the genocidal communist party responsible for the murder of 2 million people.
“This is the face of socialism and ignorance,” says Heng, who, at the end of the video, declares herself a Republican. “Does Alexandria-Ocasio Cortez know the horror of socialism?”
The ad was met with swift backlash from viewers, who immediately called for a boycott of the network for allowing the ad to run, and also questioning how it cleared their standards and practices.
Wtf @ABCNetwork what made you think this was ok?? You're supporting hate, racism, abject stupidity and violence against women and politicians. Good job, guys, you must be so proud. 🤨 #BoycottABC https://t.co/9qpr2vSjjV— Kristina Klein (@bootsiannakfu73) September 13, 2019
How the hell did this Elizabeth Heng ad where @AOC’s face is burned up clear ABC network standards and practices?— Yashar Ali 🐘 (@yashar) September 13, 2019
The fact ABC ran an ad featuring a picture of AOC on fire with skulls and dead bodies in the background during the Dem debate last night—and the fact they hired Sean Spicer—tells you everything you ever need to know about the network. Time to #BoycottABC. Retweet if you agree.— Scott Dworkin (@funder) September 13, 2019
The Washington Post reports that the ad was paid for by a newly formed Republican PAC (Political Action Committee) based out of California called New Faces GOP, which aims to bring candidates "from all races, ethnicities, gender, or geography" to the Republican party. Heng herself made a point of saying, "my skin is not white."
The ad was aired by Sinclair Broadcast Group, a nationally syndicated network that has been repeatedly called out by the journalists it employs for pushing its agenda on their local news programming.
For everyone using the #BoycottABC tag, you should know that the offensive ad where AOC's face was burned was actually aired by a Sinclair broadcasting syndicate out of D.C.: https://t.co/EV4XZb7KmC— Amee Vanderpool (@girlsreallyrule) September 13, 2019
Sinclair has been in bed with Trump for a while now. https://t.co/IpSxBRlDRU
AOC responded to the video by calling it "a love letter to the GOP's white supremacist case." She also wrote that the intent of the ad — to prove that Republicans aren't racist — had the opposite effect.
Republicans are running TV ads setting pictures of me on fire to convince people they aren’t racist.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) September 13, 2019
Life is weird!
Know that this wasn’t an ad for young conservatives of color - that was the pretense.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) September 13, 2019
What you just watched was a love letter to the GOP’s white supremacist case. https://t.co/zvp1EB02c5
Heng replied to her tweets, defending the ad while ignoring that the burning of AOC's likeness could incite violence against the congresswoman herself.
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
Early this morning, as the cries of boycott continue to trend across Twitter, AOC called out the extreme imagery and the very real effects they may have.
GOP’s message: No policy, no facts, just displays of violence + corporations like @ABCNetwork & Sinclair who amplify them.— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) September 13, 2019
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? https://t.co/Gr1XhEbwDC
ABC has not yet responded to the backlash.