CNN host Chris Cuomo interviewed former congressional candidate Elizabeth Heng, who narrated a controversial ad targeting socialist Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and highlighting the dangers of socialism that aired during Thursday night’s Democratic debate. Throughout the interview, Cuomo tried to convince Heng, that socialism had nothing to do with the Cambodian genocide and argued that her real beef should be with President Trump, not socialists like AOC.
The ad featured a photo of Ocasio-Cortez bursting into flames and transitioning into pictures of the Cambodian genocide, with Heng describing her as “the face of socialism and ignorance” before asking “does Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez know the horror of socialism?” The ad primarily focused on Heng’s personal experience with socialism, as the daughter of Cambodian immigrants who had to endure “forced obedience” and “starvation.”
During the interview, Cuomo downplayed the role of socialism in the Cambodian genocide:
CHRIS CUOMO: You are so well-educated. You know that, you know, you can talk about socialism any way you want. Pol Pot was a brutal autocrat and dictator. That wasn’t about socialism. That was about him being an evil human being. You know, you can go to Scandinavia or Denmark, and see socialism. They’re not killing people. Why paint with that kind of brush against a set of ideas coming from a Democrat in your own country?
Heng proceeded to school Cuomo on the role of socialist ideology in brutal dictatorships, also reminding him that “Pol Pot learned socialist ideologies in France, and wanted to create this utopia. And…and quickly, that evolved into the murderous regime in which it became....Canada and Denmark and some of those other places…they have become capitalist nations.”
Media figures downplaying the threat of socialism and/or communism is not unique. Ted Turner, the founder of CNN, once claimed that during a trip to North Korea, “I saw a lot of people over there. They were thin and they were riding bicycles instead of driving in cars, but...I didn’t see any brutality.” Longtime NBC journalist John Chancellor once declared that the problem with Russia was not communism, it was “shortages,” apparently failing to realize that communism caused the shortages in the first place.
Later, Cuomo told Heng “people like your family and what you represent...your fight is with the President that you support. He’s the one who talks about your parents like they’re ‘some other’ that shouldn't be in this country.” Cuomo also accused President Trump of “embracing dictators everywhere he finds them.”
Weighing in on Heng’s fear that “we’re going to have an autocratic regime that winds up killing people in the name of a political ideology,” Cuomo stressed that “you have a President who I don’t believe has any capability like that.” Nonetheless, Cuomo still took issue with Heng’s support for President Trump because of his “embrace” of dictators: “you look at a Duterte, he says favorable things; Putin, favorable things; Kim Jong-un, favorable things.”
It did not take long for Cuomo to go back to playing the race card in an attempt to convince Heng that it’s President Trump she should be scared of, not socialism: “you should be scared about him saying we don’t want Bahamians in here because they’re drug dealers, we don’t want people coming across our southern border because they’re a brown menace.”
Throughout the interview, Heng held her own and repeatedly did the job that Cuomo’s professors at Yale apparently didn’t do by informing the CNN host of the dangers of socialism.