BUFFALO, N.Y. — Rep. Chris Collins released his first ad after restarting his campaign, putting his Democratic challenger in a starring role.
The ad features Nate McMurray speaking Korean, a video he published on Twitter prior to the president's summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un earlier this year.
"It looks like a desperate act of a dying campaign," McMurray said.
The video, he said, was meant to be hopeful. He said the words used by Collins in the ad have nothing to do with what he’s saying.
"They put a false subtitle underneath it to try to imply that I was saying something that I wasn't. It's troubling that they would stoop to this level," McMurray said.
The campaign for incumbent Republican Chris Collins said McMurray promoted a free trade agreement between South Korea and the United States which shipped thousands of jobs overseas. The challenger, who spent time in Korea working for the American Chamber of Commerce, says that's not exactly true.
"I spoke at a seminar advising U.S. companies about the impact to their businesses,” McMurray explained. “Just like anyone would do, if they changed a law in Erie County, you'd have to understand the implications of the law. To pin the KORUS FTA on me, that's completely disingenuous.”
But perhaps more important than the message, McMurray believes his opponent is appealing to a sense of bigotry. His wife is Korean and he said they struggled to explain the ad to their 10-year-old son.
"What they're really trying to say is Nate is somehow not like us. Well, I am like you. I'm an Eagle Scout. I grew up here in Western New York and my family is proud of who we are," McMurray said.
Political analyst Jack O'Donnell believes Collins' message, regardless of whether it has merits, could reach voters in New York's 27th Congressional District, many who know little about the challenger.
"I think there's a sinister subtext to North Korea, to the leader of North Korea whose picture appears in the Collins ad and clearly the ad is trying to invoke some of those feelings," O'Donnell said.
He said the ad also serves another useful purpose for the indicted congressman.
"Today we're not talking about insider trading," O'Donnell said. "We're not talking about stock deals. We're talking about Nate McMurray and what he may or may not have done."