The Slatest

Who Is Elizabeth Heng, the Woman Behind the Strange Ad Comparing AOC to the Khmer Rouge?

Elizabeth Heng.
Elizabeth Heng.
Screenshot from Newfacespac.com

On the debate stage in Houston, Bernie Sanders frustratedly batted away any comparisons between his brand of “democratic socialism” and that of Venezuela’s Nicolás Maduro. But that was mild stuff compared with the red-baiting going on during the commercial breaks, when viewers were treated to a commercial in which Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s face goes up in flames, replaced by images of skulls from the Khmer Rouge genocide in Cambodia.

“This is the face of socialism and ignorance,” intones narrator Elizabeth Heng. “Does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez know the horror of socialism? My father was minutes from death in Cambodia before a forced marriage saved his life. That’s socialism. Forced obedience. Starvation. Mine is a face of freedom. My skin is not white. I’m not outrageous, racist or socialist. I’m a Republican.”

The ad was produced by New Faces GOP, Heng’s new PAC, which was created in March and touts itself as trying to bring younger voters and people of color into the Republican Party. Who is Heng, you might ask? She’s a former staffer for Rep. Ed Royce, worked on Donald Trump’s inaugural committee, and ran unsuccessfully in the 2018 election against Democratic incumbent Jim Costa in California’s 16th Congressional district. As a young, minority woman, and the daughter of refugees, running as a Trump supporter, Heng attracted some national media attention during the midterms, with the Wall Street Journal even suggesting she could be “an Ocasio-Cortez for the GOP.” There was also some controversy when Facebook blocked one of her campaign ads, which told her parents’ story, because it featured graphic imagery of the Cambodian genocide.

In 2018, Heng ran as a relative moderate, focusing on issues like clean water, education, and supporting a legislative solution to give legal status to young immigrants covered under DACA.

But comparing AOC’s politics, which would be considered center left in many other Western countries, to a genocidal totalitarian regime that killed as many as 2 million people, is not moderate. It’s ludicrous and reprehensible. Perhaps Heng should ask the president she supports why he is so quick to defend the leader of an actual totalitarian, Communist regime.

The Daily Beast reports that “New Faces GOP appears to be purely a Heng-related venture,” with many of its funders and staffers carried over from her congressional campaign. After the ad aired, the GOP’s AOC carried on a brief feud with the original AOC on Twitter:

If the goal of the ad was to get people talking about Elizabeth Heng, it was a rousing success.