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

House Majority Leader Steny HoyerSteny Hamilton HoyerWar of words at the White House Trump tweets photo of Pelosi at White House meeting, accuses her of 'meltdown' House panel pushes forward election security legislation 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-CortezOcasio-Cortez, Thunberg, Rapinoe make BBC's 100 most inspiring women of 2019 Former Nebraska Sen. Bob Kerrey endorses Biden Democratic strategist on Sanders debate performance: 'I just think he might've topped out' MORE's (D-N.Y.) face go up in flames.

In a letter to Minority Leader Kevin McCarthyKevin Owen McCarthyThe comments and actions of Schiff demand his formal censure Trump called Pelosi a 'third-rate politician' during Syria meeting, top Democrats say Lawmakers toast Greta Van Susteren's new show 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 TrumpGOP congressman slams Trump over report that U.S. bombed former anti-ISIS coalition headquarters US to restore 'targeted assistance' to Central American countries after migration deal Trump says lawmakers should censure Schiff 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.