Indicted Republican Rep. Chris Collins kicked off his recently revived re-election bid by releasing a misleading ad which shows a clip of his opponent, Democrat Nate McMurray, appealing -- in fluent Korean -- for peace on the Korean Peninsula.
McMurray has condemned the ad, which shows at the bottom of the screen, in what looks at a glance like subtitles, a different message than the one he is actually delivering in his speech.
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"Helped American companies hire foreign workers," reads one, as an image of North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un pops up over McMurray's shoulder and an ominous score plays under his voice. "Fewer jobs for us," says another, "more jobs for China & Korea."
McMurray said the ad was hurtful to him and his family, including his son, who watched it with alongside him.
"His mom is Korean," McMurray tweeted. "My son speaks Korean. He looked at me with a grave sadness on his face. He felt what I felt. Neither of us said a word. But let me speak now. Yes they lie. They're also bigots. We will defeat them."
Collins initially suspended his campaign for a fourth term after being charged with insider trading in August but reversed course early last week. The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee now lists the traditionally Republican 27th US congressional district as an "offensive battlefield."
Collins campaign spokeswoman Natalie Baldassarre responded on Tuesday, saying McMurray was "embarrassed" by his record and was "resort(ing) to the only tool in Nancy Pelosi's playbook -- label everything you don't like as racist or bigoted."
She also defended the ad and accused McMurray of taking down the original clip from social media "because he didn't want to defend his efforts to promote a Korean-U.S. Free Trade Agreement that shipped nearly 100,000 U.S. jobs overseas," saying he "needs a new video to explain why he opposes President Trump's policies that are protecting American jobs and American workers."
Trump has railed against the United States-Korea Free Trade Agreement, known as KORUS, and threatened to tear it before signing a deal to modify it with South Korean President Moon Jae-in on Monday.
McMurray, now the town supervisor of Grand Island, New York, had no role in drafting the original deal, which went into effect after years of negotiations and congressional approval back in 2012. He went to South Korea years earlier as Fulbright Scholar, his campaign says, then went on to represent American business interests in the region.
"I won't shy away from the fact that I speak a foreign language, that I've been on the front lines of the trade war that's redefining our economy, and that I've been fighting FOR American workers," McMurray said in a statement last week. "Do you think I'd have the support of the local and national labor community if I was going to ship jobs to Asia? Of course not."
The first member of Congress to endorse Trump during the 2016 campaign, Collins is expected back in court next month and could, if convicted, face decades in prison. His son and the father of his son's fiancée were also charged.