Liberal group launches ads targeting Azar over child separations

Liberal group launches ads targeting Azar over child separations
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A reproductive rights group is launching an ad campaign targeting Health and Human Services (HHS) Secretary Alex Azar for his role in enforcing the Trump administration’s policy of family separations at the country’s southern border.

Equity Forward said it spent more than $1 million on an ad campaign, including a television ad in the Washington, D.C., metro area, encouraging people to call Congress and tell lawmakers to hold Azar and the administration accountable for the separation policy.

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While HHS didn't write the “zero tolerance” policy, the agency is responsible for implementing the most controversial aspect: housing the children separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border.

The ad, called “Disgrace,” opens with audio of detained children crying, and juxtaposes it with an interview Azar gave to CNN earlier this month where he said: "It is one of the great acts of American generosity and charity, what we are doing for these unaccompanied kids who are smuggled into our country or come across illegally.”

A voiceover then says: “Generosity? No Secretary Azar, this is a disgrace.”

A federal court ordered the administration to reunite the more than 2,000 children who have been separated from their parents, and the agency has been scrambling to do so by a July 26 deadline.

"Despite the picture that outside organizations are trying to paint by spending their time criticizing the work of HHS, Secretary Azar and the Department remain focused on the mission and continue to work tirelessly to reunite families and take care of the children in our care,” HHS spokeswoman Caitlin Oakley said in a statement to The Hill. 

Equity Forward is a reproductive rights watchdog group that “seeks to ensure transparency and accountability among anti-reproductive health groups and individuals who are actively working to deny people access to services.”

The fact that a reproductive rights group is getting involved in the migrant children crisis, especially in the middle of a Supreme Court fight, shows a major escalation in Democratic priorities of the mid-term elections.

Democrats are trying to make Azar the face of the administration’s confusing retreat from the divisive policy, and they’re hoping the public will make the same connection.

“The simple fact is that the administration implemented a dangerous policy that ripped children away from their families and it’s Alex Azar’s responsibility to house these children safely and to quickly reunify these families,”  Mary Alice Carter, Executive Director of Equity Forward, said in a statement.

In addition to the D.C. market, Equity Forward has aired separate ads in recent weeks in the home districts of GOP Reps. Carlos CurbeloCarlos Luis CurbeloThe Hill's Morning Report — Will Trump strike a deal with Chuck and Nancy? GOP lawmakers call for autopsy on 'historic losses' Bipartisan group of lawmakers propose landmark carbon tax MORE (Fla.) and Leonard LanceLeonard LanceIncoming Dem lawmaker: Trump 'sympathizes' with leaders 'accused of moral transgressions' On The Money: Why the tax law failed to save the GOP majority | Grassley opts for Finance gavel, setting Graham up for Judiciary | Trump says China eager for trade deal | Facebook reeling after damning NYT report Tax law failed to save GOP majority MORE (N.J.). Both members represent districts that could swing Democratic in November.

—Updated at 8:17 p.m.