Hoyer calls on GOP leader to denounce 'despicable' ad attacking Ocasio-Cortez

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerThe Hill's 12:30 Report — Presented by UANI — House Dems charge Trump with abuse, obstruction of Congress in impeachment articles Hoyer predicts impeachment vote next week Pelosi announces support for new Trump NAFTA deal MORE (D-Md.) is formally asking the top House Republican to denounce an ad from a GOP-aligned political group that showed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezBiden narrowly ahead in Iowa as Sanders surges, Warren drops: poll Democrats reach cusp of impeachment Progressives hopeful for deal with Pelosi to avert showdown on drug prices MORE's (D-N.Y.) face go up in flames.

In a letter to Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyCollege Republicans launch campaign calling for GOP to take action on climate change Pelosi's whiplash moment brings praise and criticism GOP calls for minority hearing on impeachment, threatens procedural measures MORE (R-Calif.), Hoyer said the ad, which aired during last week's Democratic presidential debate on ABC, was a "despicable example of the politics of hate and division and misleads the American public."


"Unless you agree with the message delivered in this ad, I would urge you to denounce it as a lie, reject its message, and urge its rejection by your party and those associated with your party," Hoyer wrote.

The ad, which was run by New Faces GOP, a political action committee run by Elizabeth Heng, who unsuccessfully ran for Congress in California last year, opens with a photo of Ocasio-Cortez.

“This is the face of socialism and ignorance. Does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez know the horror of socialism?” Heng narrates. The photo of Ocasio-Cortez then is lit aflame and burns to reveal images of skulls and skeletons.

“My father was minutes from death in Cambodia before a forced marriage saved his life. That’s socialism. Forced obedience. Starvation,” Heng goes on to say. “Mine is a face of freedom. My skin is not white. I’m not outrageous, racist or socialist. I’m a Republican.”

Hoyer warned that such images in a political ad could potentially lead to violence.

"The images of skulls and deceased persons clearly equating such as socialism is both false and may well be inciteful to violence. It is an example of the 'big lie.' Hopefully, it will not be a preface of what is to come in the months ahead," Hoyer wrote.

Heng defended the ad in response to Hoyer's letter, saying that "we are just getting started."

"Since our first ad aired, we have seen a typical response from the Democrats — cry racism and then demand conservatives be silenced for expressing their ideas," Heng said in a statement on Wednesday. "Unlike the socialists in the Democratic Party, Republicans have the courage to call socialism out for what it is, and we will not be intimidated."

A spokesman for McCarthy didn't immediately return a request for comment.

Hoyer brought up the ad during a Democratic caucus meeting on Wednesday morning. 

According to multiple sources, Hoyer said the commercial attacking Ocasio-Cortez was worse than the infamous Willie Horton ad. That TV spot created by President George H.W. Bush's supporters in 1988 attacked Democrat Michael Dukakis for his support of a prison furlough program and featured the mug shot of Horton, an African American man.

Ocasio-Cortez last week denounced the new ad, calling it "a love letter to the GOP's white supremacist case."

"Republicans are running TV ads setting pictures of me on fire to convince people they aren’t racist. Life is weird!" Ocasio-Cortez tweeted.

"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," she added.

Republicans including President TrumpDonald John TrumpRepublicans consider skipping witnesses in Trump impeachment trial Bombshell Afghanistan report bolsters calls for end to 'forever wars' Lawmakers dismiss Chinese retaliatory threat to US tech MORE have increasingly pointed to Osasio-Cortez and other progressive members of Congress as "the new face" of the Democratic Party. The ad airing during the 2020 primary debate is part of a concerted GOP effort to paint the party as socialist.

—Scott Wong contributed. Updated at 5:14 p.m.